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Deep Freeze Across U.S. Affecting Grain Shipping, Ethanol Production

The deep freeze across the heart of the U.S. is hindering corn and soybean shipments, affecting ethanol production, and shutting down meat plants.

Ice warning and travel restrictions on the Illinois River are making it increasingly difficult to get grain shipments to ports in the Pacific Northwest, as soaring energy costs and gas shortages are forcing some soybean processing and ethanol plants to slow production.

River transport is not alone in being disrupted. The ice on rail tracks interferes with the braking systems of trains, forcing the use of more locomotives, limiting each train’s capacity.

The timing of these events is not ideal, as they come just as China is seriously ramping up its purchases of U.S. commodities - having already bought a record volume of U.S. corn, and soybean purchases are at their highest rate in 30 years.

Cargill and ADM have both voluntarily reduced their energy usage, temporarily idled select grain elevators, and adjusted transport routes, while cattle processing facilities and dairy farmers have also had to close or dump milk due to the inability to get it to market.

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