By Walt Hickey Welcome back! Mississippi Roughly 60 percent of the United States’ exports of grain are transported to market by barge down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. It’s a remarkably efficient way of moving grain; your standard group of 15 barges traveling downriver can carry as much cargo as 1,000 trucks, efficiently and economically. The river north of St. Louis remains deep enough to handle barges pretty consistently thanks to a series of locks and dams ensuring a 9-foot-deep channel, while to the south of it river levels can be volatile. That’s happening right now, as hot and dry weather has pushed the Mississippi to levels so low that barge companies have to cut their loads in order to not hit bottom, which has sent the cargo rate from St. Louis to points south up
Grain exporters should remember that the Great Lakes have ports that serve the St. Lawrence Seaway & can potentially ship cheaper than trying to pay the over-the-top rates to go down the Mississippi. Exports from Thunder Bay, Ontario are hopping this year - and the same could happen in Duluth if people would consider the overall costs.