Mississippi River levels are hurting grain movement

With the Mississippi River near record lows, the Soy Transportation Coalition is calling the situation “very concerning.”

The group says the inland waterway system in the lower Mississippi currently does not have the normal capacity to accommodate this year’s harvest.

These low levels have caused restrictions on how much product barges can carry. Currently, the lower Mississippi has a 9-foot restriction. On a normal day, they are loaded to around 12 feet. For every one foot of decreased water depth, that means 5,000 fewer bushels of soybeans get loaded.

A Wisconsin Grain originator says he has seen fewer products able to leave.

“On top of that, the channels of water that are deep enough for barges to actually pass through have narrowed, so that just basically means that less barges can actually travel down the river at a time, and in aggregate we’re seeing less grain actually able to make it to the Gulf for export. More barges are required to get that grain there, which has basically driven barge rate to historic levels,” said Nick Thone.

Fortunately, those rates have come down in the last week, but further complicating the problem is a looming rail strike, which would prevent rail shipments if owners and unions do not reach an agreement.