River Levels Dictate Grain Movement

With harvest underway across the country, one method of transportation is suffering from limited rains across the Midwest. The Mississippi River’s water levels have become too shallow for many barges to effectively navigate. American Farm Bureau Federation Economist Danny Munch says grain shipments have already been reduced. “Water levels really dictate whether barges are moving, how much grain is loaded in them, and how many barges a single tugboat can pull.” Munch says prices have increased because demand of boats and barges is increasing. “Last week, they reported 20-27 percent reduction of volume that barges can move. They also limited the amount of barges a tugboat can pull to 25, which is a 17 to 35 percent reduction.” The backlog in barge movements has pushed barge costs for shippers incredibly higher. During the week of October 4, average barge tariffs reached record levels at over 2,000 percent their underling benchmark and was up 50 percent from last year.