Moving Grain: Mississippi River Locks Reopen After Flood-Related Closures

Grain barges. Photo: Kansas State University

Mississippi River Locks Reopen after Flood-related Closures

Significant rainfall has resulted in flooding conditions, which closed multiple locks on the Upper Mississippi River. The impacted locks are located on a 184-mile stretch of the Mississippi River, from Muscatine, IA, to Clarksville, MO. As of the morning of October 25, rainfall has subsided, and all locks are open. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reports significant delays at the impacted locks.

In addition to long queues at the locks, barge shipments are delayed by high water at St. Louis Harbor, where southbound traffic is restricted to daylight hours. St Louis barge traffic is restricted to day light hours when the Mississippi River level is above 25 feet. Forecasts from the National Weather Service indicate the Mississippi River at St Louis is not expected to fall below 25 feet, until October 29.

High water has impacted river traffic throughout 2018, as cumulative year-to-date down-bound grain tonnages, on the locking portions of the Mississippi, Ohio and Arkansas rivers, were 30.5 million tons, 6 percent lower than last year at this time.

Iowa Panel Approves Rail Projects

The Iowa Transportation Commission (Iowa DOT) recently approved more than $3.1 million in funding for five rail infrastructure and development projects, under Iowa’s Railroad Revolving Loan and Grant Program. The projects are expected to add jobs and improve the rail network, with at least two having a direct bearing on grain transportation. Examples include a project to make rail improvements on Union Pacific Railroad track at Quaker Oats, which was awarded a $1 million grant; and a $660,750 loan to Farmers Feed and Grain for rail improvements.

Grain Inspections Down from Past Week

For the week ending October18, total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, and soybeans) for export from all major U.S. export regions reached 2.55 million metric tons (mmt); down 6 percent from the previous week, down 24 percent from last year, and down 16 percent from the 3-year average. Inspections of each of the three major grains were down from the previous week, with wheat experiencing the largest decrease, at 16 percent.

Grain inspections dropped 45 percent from the past week in the Pacific Northwest (PNW), as shipments destined to Asia decreased. Mississippi Gulf grain inspections decreased only 2 percent from the previous week. During the last four weeks, grain inspections were 8 percent below last year and 15 percent below the 3-year average.

Snapshots by Sector

Export Sales

For the week ending October 11, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 34.2 mmt, down 2 percent from the same time last year. Net weekly wheat export sales were .476 mmt, up 40 percent from the previous week. Net corn export sales were .382 mmt, down 62 percent from the previous week. Net soybean export sales were .294 mmt, down 33 percent from the past week.

Grain News on AgFax


Rail

For the week ending October 13, U.S. Class I railroads originated 22,205 grain carloads; down 2 percent from the previous week, unchanged from last year, and down 10 percent from the 3-year average.

Average November shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers, per car, were $81 above tariff for the week ending October 18, up $106 from last week, and $156 higher than last year. Average non-shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers were $63 above tariff. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers last week or this week last year.

Barge

For the week ending October 20, barge grain movements totaled 285,650 tons, 45 percent lower than the previous week and down 48 percent from the same period last year.

For the week ending October 20, 156 grain barges moved down river, 175 less than the previous week. There were 832 grain barges unloaded in New Orleans, 7 percent lower than the previous week.

Ocean

For the week ending October 18, 38 ocean-going grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf, 9 percent more than the same period last year. Sixty-two vessels are expected to be loaded within the next 10 days, 35 percent more than the same period last year.

For the week ending October 18, the ocean freight rate for shipping bulk grain, from the Gulf to Japan, was $49.75 per metric ton, 1 percent more than the previous week. The cost of shipping, from the PNW to Japan, was $27.75 per metric ton, unchanged from the previous week.

Fuel

For the week ending October 22, the U.S. average diesel fuel price decreased 1.4 cents, from the previous week, to $3.38 per gallon, 58.3 cents above the same week last year.

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