Flood Conditions Continue to Hamper Barge Traffic
Extreme rainfall events have caused flooding on much of the inland waterways and hampered barge traffic. During June, the flooding caused several lock closures on the Mississippi, Illinois, and Arkansas Rivers. During the week ending July 1, Mississippi River Locks 20, 21, 22, 24, and 25 (Clayton, MO, to Grafton, IL) were closed for a few days due to high water. St. Louis Harbor has reopened to daylight only traffic for barges greater than 600 feet.
On July 1, Mississippi River levels at St. Louis rose to slightly over 38 feet (a level which procedurally prompts the Coast Guard to close the river), but a complete closure was not implemented as flood levels are forecast to recede during the upcoming weekend.
Grain Inspections Increase Slightly
For the week ending June 25, total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, soybeans) from all major export regions reached 1.65 million metric tons (mmt), up 3 percent from the past week, 28 percent above last year, and 19 percent above the 3-year average. Soybean inspections jumped 69 percent, wheat inspections increased 3 percent, and corn inspections decreased 8 percent from the past week.
Mississippi Gulf grain inspections jumped 41 percent from the previous week as shipments to Latin America and Africa rebounded. Pacific Northwest grain inspections dropped 45 percent during the same period. Outstanding (unshipped) exports sales of wheat continued to increase from week to week, while corn and soybean sales decreased.
EPA Proposal Could Boost Ethanol Use
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is hoping to put more ethanol in gasoline despite reducing the consumption target established in a 2007 energy law. On May 29, EPA proposed requiring the use of 13.4 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol this year and 14 billion in 2016, down from the 15 billion target for both years established in 2007. EPA will finalize the targets by November 30. (Bloomberg News)
Daniel Elliott Confirmed as STB Chairman
On June 22, the Senate confirmed the nomination of Daniel Elliott for a reappointment as the Chairman of the Surface Transportation Board (STB). Elliott had been Chairman since 2009 until his term expired in December 2014. Deb Miller has been the acting Chairwoman in the meantime, and Ann Begeman has continued to serve as Vice Chairwoman. Currently, the STB has only three members, but recent legislation passed by the Senate would expand the membership to five if the legislation is also approved by the House.
Snapshots by Sector
During the week ending June 18, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 17.8 mmt, unchanged from the same time last year. Net weekly wheat export sales of 0.434 mmt were up 38 percent from the prior week. Corn export sales of 0.497 mmt were down 21 percent, and soybean export sales of 0.119 mmt were down 11 percent from the prior week.
U.S. Class I railroads originated 18,271 carloads of grain during the week ending June 20, down 10 percent from last week, up 3 percent from last year, and up 4 percent from the 3-year average.
During the week ending June 25, average July shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers per car were $199 below tariff, up $17 from last week and $1,149 lower than last year. Non-shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers were $25 below tariff, up $13 from last week and $363 lower than last year.
During the week ending June 27, barge grain movements totaled 723,133 tons–about 7 percent higher than the previous week and 3 percent lower than the same period last year.
During the week ending June 20, 473 grain barges moved down river, up 6 percent from last week; 564 grain barges were unloaded in New Orleans, down 5 percent from the previous week.
During the week ending June 25, 31 ocean-going grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf, 29 percent more than the same period last year. Forty vessels are expected to be loaded within the next 10 days, 23 percent less than the same period last year.
During the week ending June 19, the ocean freight rate for shipping bulk grain from the Gulf to Japan was $32 per metric ton (mt), down 2 percent from the previous week. The cost of shipping from the PNW to Japan was $18 per mt, down 3 percent from the previous week.
During the week ending June 29, U.S. average diesel fuel prices decreased 2 cents from the previous week to $2.84 per gallon–down $1.08 from the same week last year.