Almost 60 percent of the Midwest grain harvest moves down the Mississippi River system to the U.S. Gulf region for export.
In The Agricultural Marketing Service’s “Grain Transportation Report,” the agency says low water on the entire system led to draft and tow restrictions on barges, similar to what happened in fall 2022. “From the week ending on July 8 to the week ending on September 30, down-bound barged grain volumes totaled 3.9 million tons,” the report says. “That’s 35 percent lower than the third quarter last year and 53 percent lower than the five-year average.”
Last year’s historic low water levels hit from late September through early December. This year’s low water levels began in June, about two months earlier than in 2022, and then continued for most of the third quarter this year. The most severe shipping restrictions are on the lower Mississippi River and Ohio River in Illinois.