Moving Grain: Barge Traffic Resumes on Upper Mississippi

    Barge and ship traffic transport export cargo on the Mississippi River in the Port of New Orleans. Photo: Bob Nichols, USDA

    Barge Traffic Resumes on Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers

    Barge traffic has resumed, as river conditions on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers are improving. As of June 27, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Lock Status Report shows no lock closures on the Upper Mississippi River or the Illinois River. The River Industry Action Committee (RIAC), an association of companies and organizations who are stakeholders in the commercial industry on the inland waterways, has established queue guidelines for tows waiting to transit previously closed portions of the river.

    RIAC guidelines are helping ease congestion and direct the orderly flow of traffic at locks above St. Louis. While most of the river system is reported open, some tows are still restricted by high water preventing passage under some bridges.

    FRA Announces More Than $326 Million in Grants to Support Railroad Infrastructure

    On June 12, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced the recipients of more than $326 million in grant funds under the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements and the Special Transportation Circumstances Programs. The grants fund 45 projects in 29 states and will be used to improve the safety, efficiency, and reliability of intercity passenger and freight rail systems.

    Grain News on AgFax

    Over one-third of the funds—more than $118 million—were awarded to rural projects. For one project, up to $7.2 million will be used to replace nine timber railroad bridges with concrete bridges on the tracks of the Indiana Rail Road Company, a Class II railroad with operations in central/southwest Indiana and central Illinois.

    Another short line, Nebraska Central Railroad, will receive up to $8.1 million to improve bridges and replace degraded track in northeastern and central Nebraska.

    Grain Inspections Continue to Fall

    For the week ending June 20, total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, and soybeans) for export from all major U.S. export regions reached 1.75 million metric tons (mmt). This amount indicates a 2 percent decline from the previous week, a 30 percent drop from last year, and a 24 percent decrease from the 3-year average.

    Week-to-week inspections of corn were down 9 percent from the past week, but inspections of wheat increased 6 percent. Inspections of soybeans were unchanged from the previous week. Grain inspections jumped 21 percent from the previous week in the Pacific Northwest (PNW), but decreased 12 percent in the Mississippi Gulf. Additionally, total year-to-date inspections of grain are down 12 percent, due primarily to lower shipments of corn.

    Snapshots by Sector

    Export Sales

    For the week ending June 13, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 23.2 mmt. This indicates a 13 percent decrease in outstanding sales, compared to the same time last year.

    Net corn export sales decreased 78 percent from the previous week, reaching .038 mmt. Net soybean export sales totaled .572 mmt, up 123 percent from the past week. Net weekly wheat export sales reached .188 mmt, up noticeably from the previous week.


    U.S. Class I railroads originated 22,425 grain carloads for the week ending June 15. This is a 6 percent increase from the previous week, 4 percent lower than last year, and 1 percent below the 3-year average.

    Average July shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers (per car) were $200 above tariff for the week ending June 20. This is $263 more than last week and $117 lower than last year. There were no non shuttle bids/offers this week. Average non-shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers were $180 above tariff. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers last week or this week last year.


    For the week ending June 22, barge grain movements totaled 161,662 tons. This is a 51 percent decrease from the previous week and 85 percent lower than the same period last year.

    For the week ending June 22, 91 grain barges moved down river. This is 97 fewer barges than the previous week. There were 265 grain barges unloaded in New Orleans, 24 percent lower than the previous week.


    For the week ending June 20, 21 ocean-going grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf. This is 28 percent fewer than the same period last year. Thirty-nine vessels are expected to be loaded within the next 10 days. This is 15 percent fewer than the same period last year.

    As of June 20, the rate for shipping a metric ton (mt) of grain from the U.S. Gulf to Japan was $47.75. This is 1 percent less than the previous week. The rate from the Pacific Northwest to Japan was $23.75 per mt. This is unchanged from the previous week.


    For the week ending June 24, the U.S. average diesel fuel price decreased 2.7 cents from the previous week, to $3.043 per gallon. This price is 17.3 cents less than the same week last year.

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