Drastically low river levels impacting grain transportation

Severely low water levels on the Mississippi River have slowed grain transportation.

South Central Illinois farmer Dan Hiestand tells Brownfield this is a major concern as they harvest corn and soybeans.

“The river is low so they can only fill the barges half to two-thirds full to keep them from grounding. That is a concern, especially right now during harvest time, when barges are most in demand.”

The USDA’s latest grain transportation report shows tonnages per southbound barge are down more than 20% and the number of barges per tow have been reduced as much as 38%.

Hiestand says they won’t haul their grain to the river for a few more months, but with no rain in the forecast, this could be a long-term problem.

“If they can’t load the barges then they can’t take the grain, so if you have obligations to meet that is going to be an issue. You can’t turn the grain into money until you get it hauled.”

Hiestand says as a result, freight rates have skyrocketed. USDA data indicates the cost per ton to ship from St. Louis to the gulf has gone up more than 200% from last year.  

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