Moving Grain: High Water Disrupts Mississippi River Navigation

High Water Disrupts Navigation Across Much of the Mississippi River System

Heavy rainfall, from the middle to lower Mississippi River Valley eastward across much of the Ohio River Basin, has resulted in widespread river flooding along Cincinnati, Cairo, Memphis, and other locations. High water has caused navigation disruptions on sections of the Ohio, Illinois, Tennessee, and Arkansas Rivers.

In response, the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) closed the Markland Locks, McAlpine Locks, and Smithland Locks. In addition, large volumes of water from the aforementioned rivers are flowing into the Mississippi River and causing its lower portion to reach flood stage at multiple locations. Barge tow sizes have been reduced from 40 to 30 barges on the lower Mississippi River, and will likely be restricted for several weeks.

Barge traffic is also restricted to daylight passage at Vicksburg and Memphis. River restrictions are set by the Waterway Action Plan, a joint effort of the U.S. Coast Guard, Corps, and senior leaders of the towing industry.

Presentations Available from USDA’s 2018 Agricultural Outlook Forum

USDA has posted presentation slides and a video recording of the opening and plenary sessions of the 94th Agricultural Outlook Forum, held last week. The Forum covered a variety of topics, including food prices, international markets and trade, and innovation in agriculture.

Grain News on AgFax

During the plenary, Cargill’s Joe Stone listed investing in infrastructure as one of “three imperatives for continued prosperity of the U.S. agricultural economy.” In addition, as part of the event, USDA released its outlook reports for grain and oilseeds, livestock and poultry, and other commodities. The commodity outlooks contain the latest projections on prices, supply, and demand for 2018/19.

For instance, USDA projects total exports of corn, soybeans, and wheat to remain similar to last year, with year-over-year corn exports decreasing 150 million bushels (7 percent) and soybeans increasing 200 million bushels (10 percent). USDA will update these projections in its May World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report.

CMA-CGM Announces New Intermodal Fee

According to a recent article by the Journal of Commerce (JOC), ocean container carrier CMA-CGM announced an emergency intermodal fee, effective March 13, 2018. The fee will apply to all shipments where CMA-CGM is responsible for the inland transportation. JOC quotes the carrier’s February 20 announcement, which cites the “new regulations requiring commercial trucks to be equipped with electronic logging devices” and “fewer drivers in the market” as reasons for the additional fee.

Snapshots by Sector

Export Sales

For the week ending February 15, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 33.6 mmt, down 6 percent from the same time last year. Net weekly wheat export sales were .329 mmt, up 6 percent from the previous week. Net corn export sales were 1.56 mmt, down 21 percent from the previous week. Net soybean export sales were negative .109 mmt for the same period.


U.S. Class I railroads originated 21,495 grain carloads for the week ending February 17; up 13 percent from the previous week, down 6 percent from last year, and down 6 percent from the 3-year average.

Average March shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers per car were $1,069 above tariff, for the week ending February 22; up $581 from last week, and $719 lower than last year. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers this week.


For the week ending February 24, barge grain movements totaled 418,480 tons, 27 percent lower than the previous week and down 22 percent from the same period last year.

For the week ending February 24, 264 grain barges moved down river, down 27 percent from last week. There were 800 grain barges unloaded in New Orleans, 47 percent higher the previous week.


For the week ending February 22, 37 ocean-going grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf, 28 percent less than the same period last year. Fifty-six vessels are expected to be loaded within the next 10 days, 27 percent less than the same period last year.

For the week ending February 22, the ocean freight rate for shipping bulk grain from the Gulf to Japan was $44 per metric ton, up 2 percent from the previous week. The cost of shipping from the PNW to Japan was $23.75 per metric ton, up 2 percent from the previous week.


During the week ending February 26, average diesel fuel prices decreased 2 cents from the previous week at $3.01 per gallon, 43 cents higher than the same week last year.

Full report.

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