Low Water May Halt Mississippi River Transport

Commerce on a key stretch of the Mississippi River could “come to an effective halt” earlier than expected next week due to low water levels, disrupting shipments of billions of dollars of grain and other goods, a group of shippers said.

The Waterways Council, which represents shippers and receivers of commodities, said in a message to its members Wednesday that it had received an advisory from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Monday that indicated water levels around Thebes, IL, could be too low for most vessels to operate by January 3 or 4.

A spokesman for the Army Corps did not immediately return a call for comment about the forecast.

Shippers for months have been watching the stretch of the Mississippi River between St. Louis and Cairo, IL, which includes Thebes, because of concerns about a potential closure.

A shipping superhighway that carries billions of dollars in grain, coal, steel and other commodities every year from the central United States to the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi is near record-low levels due to the worst U.S. drought since 1956.

“Water levels are falling quicker than we anticipated,” Ann McCulloch, spokeswoman for the American Waterways Operators, a sister organization to the Waterways Council, said in an interview. “We were hoping not to reach this point until mid-January.”

The Waterways Council did not specify how long the river could be effectively closed.

Shippers have said that rain is needed to replenish water levels to keep the river open.

Recent snowfall in the central United States should help increase water levels on the lower Mississippi River, said Army Corps spokesman Mike Petersen earlier on Wednesday. However, “we would need a lot more” precipitation to see a significant improvement on key stretches of the middle Mississippi near Thebes, he said.

The Mississippi River is the main shipping waterway for grain moving from Midwest farms to export facilities at the Gulf of Mexico. About 55 to 65% of U.S. corn, soybean and wheat shipments exit the country via the gulf.

Exporters stepped up shipments of grain and soybeans to the Gulf Coast before water levels fell to critically low levels, forcing barges to take on lighter loads. They also resorted to loading more of their goods on rail cars.

The disruption of river traffic due to low water has pushed up export prices for grain, especially soybeans that are in strong demand from buyers like China.

The latest forecast calls for the Mississippi River gauge at Thebes to be at 3 feet on or around January 3-4, with vessel drafts limited to 8 feet, according the Waterways Council. Most vessels require a 9-foot draft to operate.

The draft is the distance from the surface of the water to a boat’s lowest point.

“Our members have been preparing (for an effective closure) by investigating other options to move their products, either by rail or truck,” said Debra Colbert, senior vice president for the council. “We’ve seen orders canceled; we’ve seen orders curtailed. We’ve seen companies looking at potential layoffs.”

The Army Corps last week began clearing rocks from a shallow stretch of the drought-hit river near Thebes to maintain the flow of goods to Gulf Coast ports.

The low water level on the Mississippi River after this year’s devastating dry spell was exacerbated by the corps’ decision to reduce by even more than usual the amount of water that flows into the waterway from the Missouri River. The corps reduces the Missouri River flow every autumn.

The move raised protests from Midwestern governors and senators who urged President Barack Obama to rescind the decision for fear that badly needed income would be lost through the disruption of commerce that flows through the river.

The river groups met last week with White House staff “and continue to implore them and members of Congress and the Corps to release additional water to sustain navigation on the Mississippi River,” the council said.

Topics:

Leave a Reply

Management Stories

ManagementMACA 2014: The State Of The Agricultural Industry, And Then Some
October 9, 2014
The trade association’s annual gathering featured speakers from across agriculture and beyond. Read More
StewardshipA Multi-Layered Approach To Water Quality
October 6, 2014
Illinois event highlights research and technology designed to better monitor and improve water quality — and the benefits of cooperative, coordinated effort. Read More
StewardshipMichigan Agriculture Leaders On Toledo Water Ban: We Want To Be Part Of The Conversation
August 8, 2014
Leaders of Michigan agricultural organizations said Thursday that the government should not have a “knee-jerk reaction” based on last weekend’s water ban in Toledo due to fertilizer run-off in Lake Erie. Read More
ManagementRussia Bans U.S. And EU Ag Product Imports In Ukraine Sanctions Battle
August 7, 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin has banned the import of agricultural goods from countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia. Read More

Trending Articles

Crop InputsPlatform Specialty Products To Acquire Arysta LifeScience
October 20, 2014
Once the acquisition is complete, Platform Specialty Products will combine Arysta LifeScience with previously acquired companies Agriphar and Chemtura Crop Solutions. Read More
Seed/BiotechMonsanto Offers New Support For Ferguson, Area Communities
October 8, 2014
Monsanto Co. has committed $1 million in new support for several collaborative efforts in Ferguson, MO, and surrounding communities in North St. Louis County. Read More
Seed/BiotechUnapproved Genetically Modified Wheat Found In Montana
October 3, 2014
USDA reports that one year after discovery of Monsanto's unapproved wheat in a single Oregon field disrupted U.S. wheat export sales, the GMO wheat has again been found in Montana. Read More
Equipment2014 Product Of The Year Voting
September 19, 2014
The deadline to vote for the 2014 CropLife IRON Product of the Year is October 31. Please cast your vote today to help us determine the winner. Read More
FertilizerFall Fertility 2014: Forecasting Fertilizer Use
September 7, 2014
Great crops this year have tapped the soil, and fall work is definitely called for, but how challenging will that get? Read More
CropLife 100CHS To Build $3 Billion Fertilizer Plant In North Dakota
September 5, 2014
The fertilizer plant in Spiritwood will be the single largest investment in CHS history, as well as the single largest private investment project ever undertaken in North Dakota. Read More

Latest News

CropLife 100GROWMARK Announces Appointments In Plant Food Division
October 22, 2014
GROWMARK, Inc. has announced the three key staff changes in its Plant Food Division. Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Appoints New VP Of Finance And Risk Management
October 22, 2014
Wade Mittelstadt has been named GROWMARK Vice President, Financial and Risk Mangement, effective December 1, 2014. Read More
FungicidesEPA Approves BASF In-Furrow Corn Fungicide
October 22, 2014
Field trials show Xanthion In-furrow fungicide provides more rapid emergence, extended residual control and improved seedling health than untreated crops. Read More
EquipmentAgraScout App Available At No Cost To Universities
October 21, 2014
AgraScout, a fast and easy to use mobile crop scouting app, is now available at no cost to University students, Read More
LegislationNew Farm Bill Program To Provide Relief To Farmers Affe…
October 21, 2014
The USDA has implemented a new Farm Bill initiative that will provide relief to farmers affected by severe weather, including drought. Read More
ManagementGreenfield Scholars Program Aims To Sustain Agronomy Wo…
October 21, 2014
The program encourages talented students to study agronomy, crop and soil sciences while cultivating networks to develop the necessary workforce to sustain the profession. Read More
Paul SchrimpfPrecision Ag: Taking It To The Hill
October 21, 2014
A new coalition took the good news message of precision agriculture to Washington, DC, last month. Read More
ManagementUSDA Awards $18 Million In Small Business Research Gran…
October 21, 2014
The grants will provide high quality, advanced research and development that will lead to technological innovations and solutions for American agriculture. Read More
FertilizerCF Industries Terminates Merger Discussions With Yara I…
October 21, 2014
CF Industries Holdings and Yara International have terminated their discussions regarding a potential merger of equals transaction. Read More
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Ranked A Top 10 Biotech Employer For Third tim…
October 20, 2014
Syngenta ranked in the top 10 among the world’s top biotech employers, according to an annual survey conducted by Science magazine. Read More
CropLife 100Wheat Growers Break Ground For New Facility At Kennebec
October 20, 2014
Wheat Growers has broke ground for a state-of-the-art shuttle loader grain handling, fertilizer and agronomy facility in Kennebec, SD. Read More
FertilizerVerdesian Life Sciences Signs Agreement With Los Alamos…
October 20, 2014
Verdesian Life Sciences has signed a licensing agreement with Los Alamos National Laboratory to develop and market LANL’s latest nitrogen enhancement technology for plants. Read More
MicronutrientsStoller Group Announces Groundbreaking At New Office Bu…
October 20, 2014
Jerry Stoller, founder and president of Stoller Group, announced the groundbreaking at the site of the company’s future headquarters in Read More
Crop InputsBioSafe Systems Opens New Production Facility In Nevada
October 20, 2014
BioSafe Systems has completed construction of a state-of-art production facility in Sparks, NV, for its line of activated peroxygen products. Read More
Crop InputsPlatform Specialty Products To Acquire Arysta LifeScien…
October 20, 2014
Once the acquisition is complete, Platform Specialty Products will combine Arysta LifeScience with previously acquired companies Agriphar and Chemtura Crop Solutions. Read More
Seed/BiotechEPA Approves Dow’s Enlist Duo Herbicide
October 15, 2014
The Enlist Weed Control System, breakthrough technology to fight resistant and tough weeds, has received the long-awaited green light from federal regulatory authorities. Read More
MicronutrientsGypsum On Farms Could Help Keep Water Clean, Not Green
October 14, 2014
Gypsum, which has roots in the past as a farm soil treatment, also may have a bright future, and not just as a booster of crops but also as a protector of water. Read More
Photo credit: The United Soybean Board/The Soybean Checkoff.
Crop InputsVerdesian Grows Sales Staff
October 14, 2014
The new account managers will drive sales growth and support relationships with key customers in the plant nutrition and seed treatment and inoculants product categories. Read More