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Low Mississippi River levels back again

Mississippi River levels remain low for the second consecutive year, which could affect grain shipments in the new crop marketing year.

Mark Fuchs, a senior service hydrologist with the National Weather Service in St. Louis, says August rains helped raise river levels, but there’s no meaningful rain in the forecast to continue that trend.

“Our forecast in the next few weeks has the river levels going as low as -4. That’s low. Anytime of the year, that’s low.”

And meteorologist Anna Wolverton says via Twitter navigation on the Mississippi River is affected at -2 feet. Record low Mississippi River levels were a part of the story for ag exports last year and Soy Transportation Coalition Executive Director Mike Steenhoek says he’s concerned that story will continue this fall.

“The worry is we could be in a situation where you have what’s typically a normal 6 lane freeway that’s been narrowed to a 2 or 3 lane freeway. That’s a real concern when we’ll have a sizable crop this year and much of it is exported.”

Steenhoek says dredging will be essential for barges moving grain and the most powerful lesson learned during last year’s drought was the importance of having a second and third option to move grain, including truck and rail, which can get expensive.

He says the higher transportation costs are already starting to show in local grain prices along the lower Mississippi River.

“It really translates to fewer dollars in the farmer’s wallet. That’s why this issue has such consequence.”

And Steenhoek encourages producers to consider how low river levels could affect grain marketing.

“Do you market some of your soybeans or grain earlier if you can?”

He says there’s time with harvest still weeks away for much of the Corn Belt, but the new crop marketing year begins Friday.

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