Mississippi River grain elevator manager summarizes effects of low water levels

The manager of a grain cooperative on the Mississippi River says record  low water levels have created an array of logistical challenges.

“There is a real dislocation of where supplies are and where they need to get to.”

Roger Hugenberg oversees Ursa Farmers Cooperative, with locations along the river in Illinois and Missouri. He tells Brownfield they’ve had to decrease the number of loaded barges and the weight on each one, dramatically slowing the movement of grain.

“To move the same amount of grain it is taking 20-25% more barges. We’ve got demand for it within the export corridors, but we can’t get it there. That is going to force them to go somewhere else to buy grain.”

And he says what they are able to load has come at an extraordinary cost. “It currently costs more to ship grain from Meyer, Illinois to the Gulf of Mexico than it does to ship grain from the Gulf of Mexico to China.”

He says this week’s rains are projected to raise the river about a foot, but it will take more than that to get to normal levels.

“It’s the time of year where we don’t get a lot of precipitation, so it is going to be tough to refill that. I think south of St. Louis 60% of the water that goes into the Mississippi River comes out of the Missouri River and the western belt has been extremely dry.”

He says the end of harvest will hopefully ease some pressure on river transportation bottlenecks.

Interview with Roger Hugenberg

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