With only 7% of corn crop and 3% of the soybeans harvested, grain barge freight rates escalated in anticipation of a widespread harvest of a possible record corn and soybean crop, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The lower Illinois River barge rate for Sept. 23 was 825% of tariff ($38.28 per ton), up 30% from last week. Other river segments saw 30 to 42% weekly increases. Barge service for October shipments from the lower Illinois River are at 900% of tariff ($41.76 per ton), 66% higher than the 5-year average, according to the most recent USDA Grain Transportation Report.

For the week ending Sept. 18, total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, soybeans) from all major export regions reached 1.98 million metric tons (mmt), up 17% from the last week, down 5% from last year, and 26% above the three-year average, according to the USDA. Total corn inspections increased 30% from the previous week and soybeans jumped 85%, helping push total grain inspections to the highest level since May 8. Corn and soybean exports were shipped primarily to Asia and Latin America. The jump in corn and soybean inspections also boosted Mississippi Gulf grain inspections 46% above the last week. Wheat inspections, however, were down 23% from last week, as shipments to Asia decreased. Outstanding export sales (shipped) of corn and wheat were below the previous week, but outstanding sales of soybeans increased, according to the Grain Transportation Report.

During the week ending Sept. 20, barge grain movements totaled 343,563 tons — 38.2% higher than the previous week and 21.3% higher than the same period last year, the USDA reported. During the week ending Sept. 20, 225 grain barges moved down river, up 41.5% from last week; 699 grain barges were unloaded in New Orleans, up 9.6% from the previous week, according to the Grain Transportation Report.