Moving Grain: Army Corps of Engineers To Deepen Lower Mississippi River Ship Channel

    Mississippi River Port - Grain Elevators, Rosedale, Mississippi ©Debra L Ferguson

    U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Launched New Project To Deepen Lower Mississippi River Ship Channel to 50 feet

    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) New Orleans District has launched Phase 1 of its project to deepen the Lower Mississippi River ship channel to 50 feet. The launch follows the signing of an agreement by USACE and the State of Louisiana in late July.

    The entire project aims to deepen the final 256 miles of the River between the Gulf of Mexico to Baton Rouge, where river transportation ships more than 50 percent of the U.S. corn and soybeans to the U.S. export markets. Started on September 11, 2020, Phase 1 will dredge the Southwest Pass from the Head of Passes (considered the mouth of Mississippi, the starting point from which mileages on the Lower Mississippi River are measured) to Belmont Crossing. This phase will create approximately 175 miles of 50-foot-deep channel up to New Orleans.

    The next phase of the project will focus on deepen select locations between New Orleans and Baton Rouge where the river current slows and deposits sediments. The Corps estimates it will finish the entire project by 2024.

    California Adopts Omnibus Rule for Trucks, Phasing in Lower Oxides of Nitrogen Levels

    On August 28, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) unanimously voted to adopt the “Heavy-Duty Low NOx Omnibus Regulation” rule. The phased-in regulation will require current oxides of nitrogen (NOx) levels be reduced from the current standard by approximately 75 percent starting in 2024 and by 90 percent in 2027.

    The rule requires California truck manufacturers to comply with the stricter emissions standards, using the best structural engineering, overhaul engine testing procedures to better reflect real-world traffic conditions, and further extend engine warranties to ensure limited emissions of NOx. Trucking groups commented the new rule does not give manufacturers sufficient time to develop technologies to meet the standards, and that the industry will now be required to manufacture trucks for two different markets—California and the rest of the country.

    FMCSA Seeks Comments on Pilot Program

    The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requests public comments, by November 9, on a proposed pilot program that would allow drivers ages 18-20 to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in interstate commerce. The pilot program proposes to allow drivers to participate if they fit at least one of two categories.

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    First, a participant could be an 18 to 20-year-old commercial driver’s license (CDL) holder who operates CMVs in interstate commerce while taking part in a 120-hour probationary period and a subsequent 280-hour probationary period under an apprenticeship program established by an employer. Alternatively, a participant could be a 19- or 20-year-old commercial driver who has operated CMVs in intrastate commerce for at least 1 year and at least 25,000 miles.

    The pilot’s drivers would not be permitted to operate special configuration vehicles or vehicles hauling passengers or hazardous materials.

    Snapshots by Sector

    Export Sales

    For the week ending September 10, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 54.9 million metric tons (mmt). This represented a significant increase in outstanding sales from the same time last year.

    Net corn export sales were 1.6 mmt, down 12 percent from the past week. Net soybean export sales were 2.5 mmt, down 23 percent from the previous week. Net weekly wheat export sales were 0.336 mmt, down 31 percent from the previous week.


    U.S. Class I railroads originated 21,550 grain carloads during the week ending September 12. This was a 6-percent decrease from the previous week, 17 percent more than last year, and 13 percent more than the 3-year average.

    Average October shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers (per car) were $1,225 above tariff for the week ending September 17. This was $133 more than last week and $1,394 more than this week last year. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers this week.


    For the week ending September 19, barge grain movements totaled 504,124 tons. This was 37 percent less than the previous week and 0 percent more than the same period last year. For the week ending September 19, 318 grain barges moved down river—196 barges fewer than the previous week. There were 636 grain barges unloaded in New Orleans, 30 percent fewer than the previous week.


    For the week ending September 17, 33 oceangoing grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf—74 percent fewer than the same period last year. Within the next 10 days (starting September 18), 64 vessels were expected to be loaded—49 percent fewer than the same period last year.

    As of September 17, the rate for shipping a metric ton (mt) of grain from the U.S. Gulf to Japan was $43.50. This was 1 percent less than the previous week. The rate from the Pacific Northwest (PNW) to Japan was $23.75 per mt, 1 percent less than the previous week.


    For the week ending September 21, the U.S. average diesel fuel price decreased 1.8 cents from the previous week to $2.404 per gallon, 67.7 cents below the same week last year.

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