Propane problems put pressure on poultry farmers

Some east Alabama farmers are trying to find new propane providers as they try to keep their chickens warm.

Poultry farmer Michael Moon said he is worried about his next shipment of chicks as his propane tank is empty.

"I have no fuel at all right now, and Monday they are supposed to deliver some fuel to my farm from River City Propane," Moon said.

The Georgia company is not his regular provider.{} The company who normally handles Moon's propane told him they are out.

Moon gets baby chickens the day they hatch and raises them for about five weeks.{} He then has a two week break to prepare for another hatchling delivery.

The next truckload of chickens is supposed to arrive Thursday.

"I was told that unless I could find gas, I wouldn't be getting any birds.{} If we can't heat the birds, they would die," Moon said.

"They've got to be at 90 to 91 degrees.{} If it can't get them there, that bird's not going to grow for you.{} It's going to get sick and die.

"The fuel is a necessity.{} We have to have it."

Lamar Rosson of Rocking R Farms is chairman for the poultry division of the Etowah County Farmer's Federation.{} He opened his chicken farm 43 years ago.

"It's hard to do in the wintertime anytime but this year is exceptionally bad," Rosson said. "I thought last year was the worst weather we'd had in 25 years of so.{} This winter's worse."

He said it was this rough when he started in the 1970s.{} The farm technology wasn't as smart.{} The insulation wasn't as good.

"But we were paying 18, 19, 20 cents a gallon for propane then," Rosson said.

Etowah County farmers get their propane for $1.40 to $1.60 a gallon.{} Rosson thinks that could double.

"I wouldn't be surprised to see three dollars [a gallon] in propane gas," he said.

"I just hope, if it does, that they can't find somewhere down the chain that has caused this shortage deliberately and not just the cold weather."

He is suspicious of price gouging or supply limiting by someone along the propane chain.

"To happen this quickly over a matter of two weeks and all of a sudden they don't have any gas and can't get any gas, and there could be some increase in prices just to help them along."

Rosson switched to natural gas for his heat a few years ago when it became more cost-effective for his operation than propane.