SPRINGFIELD — Commercial truck drivers will be able to drive longer periods to help address a propane shortage in the Land of Lincoln.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has granted a Regional Emergency Declaration at the request of Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, according to a Thursday morning news release.

Illinois joins Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin under the disaster declaration.

The issue of area residents and farmers needing access to propane and fuel oil, whether it be to heat homes or dry high-moisture grain and corn, has led to more demand than existing supplies.

Krista Lisser, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Agriculture, said Thursday the action by the federal entity lifts restrictions on drivers to allow them to transport propane on longer drives. The declaration is only for the rest of November 2019.

Todd Buechler, past president of the Illinois Propane Gas Association, said Thursday drivers will be able to wait in longer lines now without worrying about that counting toward their travel time restrictions, thanks to the declaration.

If the propane shortage continues, further action could be taken by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Grant Strom, president of the Knox County Farm Bureau whose family farm is in Williamsfield, learned of the development late Thursday morning.

“That should help. I doubt it will alleviate the entire problem, but that will definitely help,” he said.

“If we can get farmers through the next three or four weeks and get several operations finished up on harvest, it will make a big difference … definitely the next two to three weeks is the critical time frame.”

Dennis Verbeck, president of the Henry County Farm Bureau, said the transportation cost is increasing as workers are driving further distances to get propane.

“I want to dry my crop, but at what cost? It’s going to be quite a balancing act to figure out the economics of it to see what’s going to work for it,” he said.

“It’s just been one of those years where you feel like you keep getting piled on. This is just another thing farmers have had to work through this year.”

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