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Abundant, affordable propane powers Pennsylvania agriculture

CHRIS HERR

Harrisburg

With so much uncertainty in the world these days, one thing many Pennsylvanians don’t have to worry about is how they’ll heat their homes during the coldest winter months. More than 568,000 homes rely on propane as the primary home heating source — and the domestic fuel source remains abundant and affordable.

That’s good news for Pennsylvania agriculture, too.

Pennsylvania’s farmers rely on propane to power their daily operations in many ways. In the case of agriculture, the fuel is just as important as the tractor. Not only is propane used to run equipment, but it is especially critical for two of the state’s fastest growing agricultural sectors: Pork and poultry production. Both have grown by approximately 25% over recent years.

Reliable, consistent and comfortable propane heat is a key part of keeping piglets hearty and healthy, and propane brooders are highly efficient because they provide more even heat over a larger area with fewer units, keeping young chicks warm and healthy.

Farmers can’t control the weather, but they do have a choice when it comes to the fuels they use. Propane heaters offer unmatched reliability because they continue to operate even during electric power outages, making access to this domestic fuel source critical for sustaining operations and helping these vital agricultural operations keep grocery store shelves stocked and neighbors across the Commonwealth fed.

While more than 14 million American families rely on propane for home heat, few appreciate just how important this fuel is to putting food on dining room tables in homes nationwide. That’s only part of the story, though. Hot water, clothes dryers, fireplaces, gas grills, cooking stoves, space heaters and generators are a few more of the growing uses for propane gas.

Propane is one of the lightest and cleanest burning of all fossil fuels, and its production and delivery is an economic stimulus. Pennsylvania’s propane industry adds almost $2 million to local economies while generating 3,200 jobs statewide, and the abundant supply means it’s highly affordable.

For farmers, this budget-friendly fuel means the opportunity for improved production with lower input costs and the flexibility to solve problems by providing a clean, cost-effective, reliable source of off-grid energy.

Poultry farmers use propane-fueled poultry house sanitizers that generate heat from propane flames housed under a steel hood to sanitize poultry litter. The intense heat kills pathogens, reduces ammonia levels and controls harmful diseases that can affect bird weight and vitality.

Propane-fired grain dryers give farmers the opportunity to save money and reduce spoilage, while also offering them flexibility in their harvest schedule and providing insurance against unforeseen issues with bringing their crops to market. Reliable access to affordable propane allows these farmers to grow their operations and increase their self-reliance.

Pennsylvania farmers have a rich tradition as stewards of the land. They support projects that strike the right balance between respecting the land and putting it to proper use for the benefit of all Pennsylvanians. Some farms have pipelines crossing their property. They take pride both in their work and for being part of the delivery chain for these valuable resources.

Energy is sometimes a divisive issue, but one thing Democrats and Republicans agree on is the need to become more independent and less reliant on foreign sources.

Not only is that happening right now, but roles are being reversed, with Pennsylvania helping to shape this new global energy dynamic. Increased development of the Marcellus and Utica shale formations has decreased our need for foreign energy sources and continues to bring enormous benefits to farmers, consumers and businesses across the state.

Continued investments in energy infrastructure to safely and responsibly deliver these natural gas liquids to market is essential.

Pipelines are the critical link to ensure we all continue to enjoy the benefits of this abundant, affordable, domestic energy resource.

Few know the value and importance of this resource better than those in the agriculture and energy communities, who have a long history of partnership aimed at keeping Pennsylvania fed and fueled.

Rest assured, we’ll continue this work together to ensure our neighbors across the Commonwealth have access to critical and essential necessities like food and fuel that fulfill the most basic of needs, all while keeping sustainability and environmental stewardship a top priority.

(Christian (Chris) Herr is executive vice president of PennAg, a membership-supported association representing agribusinesses in Pennsylvania.)

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