On April 16, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reported the start of the 2014 Upper Mississippi River navigation season when the first barge tow transited Lock and Dam 2, near Hastings, Minn., according to the USDA Grain Transportation Report (GTR) released today.

The earliest date for an upbound tow to reach Lock and Dam 2 was March 4, in 1983, 1984 and 2000. The navigation season was delayed this year due to historic ice thickness on Lake Pepin, south of Red Wing, Minn. The average start date of the navigation season is March 22, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

For the week ending April 12, 838 barges moved upbound through Mississippi River Locks 27, of which 449 were empties and 163 contained fertilizers. Over the past several weeks, barge supply on the Upper Mississippi has increased significantly because of the upbound fertilizer movements and repositioning of empty barges. The increased supply has resulted in a general decline in barge rates, according to the GTR.

The GTR reported that during the week ending April 19, barge grain movements totaled 672,445 tons—5 percent lower than the previous week but 182.8 percent higher than the same period last year.

During the week ending April 19, 441 grain barges moved down river, down 2.2 percent from last week; 623 grain barges were unloaded in New Orleans, down 7.8 percent from the previous week, the USDA said.