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High Rivers in Midwest Continue to Hamper Grain Shipments

High river levels in the Midwest, caused by heavy rains, continue to cause havoc for farmers.

Continuous rains in Missouri and Illinois have forced some farmers to change planting decisions or leave fields unplanted. River levels on both the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers are also making it difficult and costly to send grain downriver.

“The river has been pretty fouled up for about a month,” Rick Calhoun, president of Cargill’s barge line, which operates 1,300 barges, told Iowa Farmer Today.

The problem is two-fold. When the water is too high, the barges can’t fit underneath the spouts to be loaded and where loading is possible the U.S. Coast Guard has limited when and how many boats can travel down river.

“It’s just taking more boats to do the same work,” Calhoun continues. “The cost of navigation has gone up.”

Despite having lifted a force majeure two weeks ago, CME Group, which operative the Chicago Board of Trade, again reinstated the declaration, allowing for delayed shipments until the problems have been resolved.

Scott Sigman, Transportation and Export Infrastructure Lead for the Illinois Soybean Association is careful to point out, however, that this is not a crisis yet. “Largely, farmers are in downtime right now, just scouting their fields and dealing with weeds. Those who have held their crop up until this point are generally able to wait another couple of weeks.”

The danger lies in August, when farmers are preparing to harvest and looking to get their crops into more lucrative export markets that rely heavily on river transportation.

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