Shipping along the Mississippi River has been disrupted as water levels near record lows cause barges to get stuck in mud and sand, likely creating another snag for the supply chain.
The U.S. Coast Guard said last week that at least eight barge groundings have been reported in the past week.
One of the groundings happened on Friday between Louisiana and Mississippi, near Lake Providence, Louisiana. It halted river traffic in both directions for days, forcing dozens of barges to line up and wait to pass.
The US Army Corps of Engineers has dredged the Mississippi in several places to keep river traffic flowing in some areas from Missouri south through Louisiana. Low water restrictions were also placed on barge loads, slowing transport.
LOW WATER LEVELS ON THE MISSISSIPPI ARE EXPECTED TO CAUSE FERRY TRAFFIC
Much of the Mississippi River Basin, from Minnesota to Louisiana, has experienced below-normal precipitation since late August. The pool from St. Louis south has been largely dry for three months, according to the National Weather Service.
Experts say the delays could not come at a worse time as barges transport harvested corn and soybeans along the river.
Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition, estimated that the low water levels have reduced barge capacity by about a third. He said barges transport about 29% of the nation’s soybean crop.
Matt Ziegler, director of public policy and regulatory affairs for the National Corn Growers Association, said about 20% of the corn crop is exported, and nearly two-thirds of those exports typically travel down the Mississippi River on barges before being shipped out of New York . Orleans.
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Lucy Fletcher of agricultural retailer AGRIServices in Brunswick told The Associated Press that while river delays have some shippers looking to divert to rail or truck, some modes of transportation are largely booked and unavailable due to supply chain issues following the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.