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Veteran Advisor

Mississippi River Flooding & Markets

22-Year Flood Levels on Mississippi Can Impact Grain Exports


Mike Steenhoek, Executive Director
Soy Transportation Coalition, says that the Mississippi River is expected to rise to nearly 45 feet by tomorrow (Thursday), which would be the highest level since the river crested at 49.58 on August 1, 1993.  We have grown increasingly accustomed to discussing flooding and its impact on river navigation over the past 5-10 years.  However, those discussions have usually occurred in April, May, or June.  What is truly unique about this occasion is that we are having this discussion in late December.
Due to the flooding, the Mississippi River has been closed between mile markers 179 and 184 near St. Louis.
While the high water levels near St. Louis and throughout the Mississippi River are expected to relax in the near future due to drier weather in the forecast, the consequences to barge transportation and grain exports will nonetheless remain even with ideal weather moving forward.  All of the water from this region is flowing to the lower Mississippi River, which accounts for 58 percent of U.S. soybean exports and 67 percent of U.S. corn exports – by far the leading export region for both commodities.  It will take 3-4 weeks for the water in the upper Mississippi and Ohio River regions to be expelled from lower Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico.
80 percent of U.S. soybean exports occur between the months of September and February.  Prior to the South American harvest, which occurs in February, March, and April, the U.S. is the leading supplier of soybeans on the global marketplace.  As a result, any disruption of service during this critical time frame is of concern.
Fortunately, railroads are well positioned to accommodate volumes that need to be diverted from barge to other modes of transportation.  A couple years ago, demand for rail service exceeded supply.  Since then, railroads have invested significantly in their networks.  In addition, many farmers are electing to store a sizable percentage of their 2015 harvest in order for a more opportune time to sell.  As a result, railroads have available capacity to absorb additional volumes.


What say you?




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2 Replies
Senior Advisor

Re: Mississippi River Flooding & Markets

Doesn't ice typically cause some disruptions in barge traffic during the winter months?

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Re: Mississippi River Flooding & Markets

Ohio River has crested and is falling today, but is true will take couple of weeks to return to normal. I did meet a couple of ARTCO (American River Transportation Company) (ADM) boats last week heading up the Ohio. But it is normal to see them this time of year on the Ohio when the Upper Mississippi slows down.
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