WASHINGTON – A board member of the National Turkey Federation told a Senate committee that significant steps must be taken to avoid a winter propane fuel crisis similar to this past winter.

John Zimmerman, testifying before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said many industry stakeholders were shocked at how long it took to determine who had the authority to exercise regulatory authority to address the problem. Propane used for turkey production in Minnesota jumped by more than 30 percent to $5 per gallon from $1.30 per gallon. Turkey production in Minnesota cost $25 million more compared to the previous winter.

“It became clear to many of us that if something was not done we could very well run out propane altogether,” Zimmerman said. “This forced us to ration what propane we had on hand by lowering temperatures in our barns, shops and homes. This caused a loss of production efficiency and concerns over potential animal welfare issues. This has and continues to directly impact the growers’ bottom line when the turkeys go to market.”

The Minnesota Turkey Growers Association is working to secure propane supplies in storage before next winter, but there is not enough capacity to meet storage needs because the Cochin pipeline that was at 50 percent capacity during winter maintenance will be unavailable for propane delivery this year. Zimmerman estimated it would take 6,500 additional railcars to replace roughly 200 million gallons of propane that flows through the Cochin pipeline. Zimmerman said the government should establish an early warning system to allow industry time to plan.

"We did not have the luxury of a head start on moving propane from where it was stored to where it was needed because such a system did not exist,” Zimmerman said. "In addition, triggers should prioritize shipments of propane, relax trucking hours of service, and ease permitting for additional storage and the construction of a dedicated pipeline for propane."