All Eyes on U.S. Freight Transportation: Why the Mississippi River is grabbing global attention

Grain shipments on the Mississippi River are down 78 percent, while traffic is up on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway.

Officials say there has been a 30-40 percent increase in ag exports moving through the Great Lakes, but they say it is hard to judge if that is because of issues along the Mississippi River. One manager along the waterway says traffic has been steady since late March and has not let up, which was long before water levels fell along the Mississippi.

The Soy Transportation Coalition recently worked a deal to get soybeans out of the U.S. through the St. Lawrence Seaway in an effort to keep harvest going. They recently talked with the Iowa Soybean Association to get an even better idea of what they are dealing with. He says now, the maximum allowance on waterways is 25, which dramatically impedes the economics of our barge transportation and has an impact on farmer competitiveness in the international marketplace.

Remaining competitive is why analysts with Rabobank say farmers need to keep a close eye on local basis levels. They say the impact of recent troubles is evident in the Gulf of Mexico with basis levels upwards of $1.50 per bushel. Basis levels can typically be a good indicator of how freight is moving and how in demand the grain is. As the November deadline approaches for rail unions and owners to ratify a new labor contract, shipping companies remain on edge.

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