Moving Grain: Inland Waterway Conditions Improve

Barge traffic on the Mississippi River - Port of New Orleans. Photo: USDA

Navigation Conditions Improve Throughout the Inland Waterways

As of July 11, the Mississippi River gauge at St. Louis was reported at 33.7 feet, a decline from higher levels in previous weeks. The National Weather Service forecasts river levels will continue to decline into mid-July. Mississippi River barge traffic at St. Louis was stopped from May 23 through June 23, when river levels exceeded 38 feet. River closures occur at certain gauges, set by the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and River Industry representatives.

Tow delays are reported at locks on the Upper Mississippi River, as traffic is slowly returning to normal operations. Navigation conditions have been improving on the Illinois, Ohio, and Arkansas Rivers. The number of grain barges being unloaded at Mississippi River export elevators amounted to 14,998 year to date, a 19 percent decrease from the 3-year average.

Grain Inspections Rebound As Demand for Corn Increases

For the week ending July 4, total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, and soybeans) for export from all major U.S. export regions reached 2.1 million metric tons (mmt). This amount is up 18 percent from the previous week, down 16 percent from last year, and is 10 percent below the 3-year average. Inspections increased mainly due to a 147 percent jump in corn inspections, which were destined primarily to Asia and Latin America.

Soybean inspections increased slightly from week to week, while inspections of wheat dropped 12 percent. Total inspections of grain increased (from the previous week) in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) and the Mississippi Gulf, by 26 percent and 33 percent, respectively.

ERS Publishes Report on Soybean Trade

USDA’s Economic Research Service recently released a study, Interdependence of China, United States, and Brazil in Soybean Trade, highlighting aspects of soybean production and trade among these countries. According to the report, “Soybeans are the largest and most concentrated segment of global agricultural trade. Two land-abundant countries—Brazil and the United States—supply most soybean exports, and China accounts for over 60 percent of global soybean imports.”

Among other objectives, the report reviews factors behind the geographic concentration of soybean trade; discusses China’s growing demand for soybean meal and oil; reviews soybean production trends in the United States, Brazil, and China; compares production and transportation costs; and analyzes trends and fluctuations in export prices and prices paid by importers in China.

Snapshots by Sector

Export Sales

For the week ending June 27, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 21.9 mmt. This indicates a 12 percent decrease in outstanding sales, compared to the same time last year. Net corn export sales reached .176 mmt, down 40 percent from the previous week. Net soybean export sales totaled .868 mmt, up significantly from the past week. Net weekly wheat export sales reached .276 mmt, down 55 percent from the from the previous week.

Grain News on AgFax


U.S. Class I railroads originated 20,955 grain carloads for the week ending June 29. This is an 8 percent decrease from the previous week, 11 percent lower than last year, and 10 percent below the 3-year average.

Average July shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers (per car) were $42 above tariff for the week ending July 4. This is $137 more than last week and $333 less than last year. There were no non shuttle bids/offers this week.


For the week ending July 6, barge grain movements totaled 779,876 tons. This is a 5 percent increase from the previous week and 33 percent lower than the same period last year.

For the week ending July 6, 489 grain barges moved down river. This is 20 more barges than the previous week. There were 434 grain barges unloaded in New Orleans, 16 percent more than the previous week.


For the week ending July 4, 26 ocean-going grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf. This is 8 percent more than the same period last year. Forty-one vessels are expected to be loaded within the next 10 days. This is 2 percent fewer than the same period last year.

As of July 4, the rate for shipping a metric ton (mt) of grain from the U.S. Gulf to Japan was $44.50. This is 3 percent more than the previous week. The rate from the PNW to Japan was $24.25 per mt; 2 percent more than the previous week.


For the week ending July 8, the U.S. average diesel fuel price increased 1.3 cents from the previous week, to $3.055 per gallon. This price is 18.8 cents less than the same week last year.

Full report.

The Latest

Send press releases to

View All Events

Send press releases to

View All Events