Moving Grain: Flood Conditions Continue To Disrupt Barge Navigation

    Barges on Mississippi River. ©Debra L Ferguson

    Flood Conditions Continue To Disrupt Barge Navigation on Lower Mississippi

    Consistent flood conditions on the Lower Mississippi River are causing disruptions from Cairo, IL, to the Gulf of Mexico. As a result, tow size has been reduced by 5-10 barges and productivity has been reduced by 14-24 percent.

    According to the American Commercial Barge Line, flood conditions are based on the river stage at Baton Rouge that crested above 40 feet and is currently slowly falling. As of March 11, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasted Baton Rouge to remain above the 35-foot flood stage until late March.

    DOT Announces Funding for the America’s Marine Highway Program

    DOT’s Maritime Administration announced the availability of $9.5 million in grant funding for the America’s Marine Highway Program (AMHP). AMHP aims to provide new and efficient transportation options, increase the productivity of the surface transportation system, and reduce landside congestion by supporting greater use of the Nation’s navigable waterways.

    In addition, AMHP collaborates with public and private organizations to create and sustain American jobs in U.S. ports, vessels, and shipyards. Projects eligible for grants are those that have been previously designated Marine Highway Projects by the Secretary of Transportation.

    The deadline to submit application for AHMP is 5:00 p.m. EST on April 10, 2020.

    Diesel Prices Continue To Fall; Crude Oil Prices Approach Record for Daily Decline

    For the week ending March 9, the U.S. average diesel fuel price decreased 3.7 cents from the previous week to $2.814 per gallon, 26.5 cents below the same week last year. Diesel prices have fallen 26.5 cents over the past 9 weeks.

    The U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported in its latest Short-Term Energy Outlook that, on March 9, crude oil prices fell 24 percent, below $35 per barrel—the second largest daily decline on record. This decline followed a March 6 meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its partner countries, “…which ended without an agreement on production levels amid market expectations for declining global oil demand growth in the coming months.”

    EIA’s latest forecast for average 2020 diesel fuel prices is $2.54 per gallon, reflecting an assumption of lower global oil demand.

    Snapshots by Sector

    Export Sales

    For the week ending February 27, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 21.6 million metric tons (mmt). This represented a 35-percent decrease in outstanding sales, compared to the same time last year. Net corn export sales reached 0.769 mmt, down 11 percent from the past week. Net soybean export sales were 0.345 mmt, up 2 percent from the previous week. Net weekly wheat export sales reached 0.542 mmt, up 42 percent from the previous week.

    Grain News on AgFax


    U.S. Class I railroads originated 20,611 grain carloads during the week ending February 29. This is a 9-percent increase from the previous week, 1 percent more than last year, and 9 percent lower than the 3-year average.

    Average March shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers (per car) were $38 above tariff for the week ending March 5. This is $198 more than last week and $1,758 lower than this week last year. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers this week.


    For the week ending March 7, barge grain movements totaled 531,957. This was a 30-percent increase from the previous week and 47 percent more than the same period last year.

    For the week ending March 7, 331 grain barges moved down river—68 more barges than the previous week. There were 526 grain barges unloaded in New Orleans, 10 percent more than the previous week.


    For the week ending March 5, 29 oceangoing grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf—unchanged from the same period last year. Within the next 10 days (starting March 6), 41 vessels were expected to be loaded—29.3 percent fewer than the same period last year.

    As of March 5, the rate for shipping a metric ton (mt) of grain from the U.S. Gulf to Japan was $43.75. This was 1 percent more than the previous week. The rate from the Pacific Northwest to Japan was $23.75 per mt, 1 percent more than the previous week.

    Full report.

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