Low Mississippi River could impact barges carrying fall harvest

Dry conditions are leading to historically low River levels in the Heartland. The Ohio River in Cairo today measured just above 8 feet this afternoon
Published: Oct. 10, 2022 at 5:32 PM CDT
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CARBONDALE, Ill. (KFVS) - Dry conditions are leading to historically low river levels in the Heartland.

With it being October, farmers are busy with harvest season. According to a professor at SIU, much of the grain in southern Illinois and other parts of the Heartland go through river ports in Texas and New Orleans.

With low river levels, that professor says it will add more traffic for trucks and trains.

“The timing of it probably couldn’t be any worse in terms of the middle of the harvest season,” said Gregory DeYong, an associate professor of operations management at SIU.

DeYong said if the low water levels continue, it may lead to problems at the grain elevators.

“Then the elevators will actually have to stop taking grain at some point. And then we’ll see grain sitting in the field where there is just nowhere to store it; and you can’t harvest it if there’s no place to store it. So at this point it looks like everything is full steam ahead as far as the harvest is going,” he continued.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, in the first week of October barged grain movements was 44 percent higher than the previous week and 36 percent fewer than the same period last year.

“Less bushels are getting hauled, so it costs more to do that, costs more for business and for farmers,” said Mark Borgmann, manager of MFA Agri Services.

DeYong said officials are talking maybe having barges carry 20 percent less per volume on the barges.

“And so the channel is less and less able to support the traffic that we would like to do right now because of, especially because of the fall harvest, which makes up a huge portion of the traffic on the river anyway,” said DeYong.

He said even with the chance of rainfall this week, that that will not impact the water levels of the Mississippi River very much.