So far, the 2014-2015 crop year has seen fewer grain transportation issues compared to last season.
The big item is improved weather conditions, which had a big impact on barge traffic last year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that all transportation modes have been performing better than expected, with barge tonnages the highest since 2009.
In 2014, total grain barge tonnage reached 35.1 million tons, the highest since 2006, the USDA reported. This was 46% higher than last year and 25% higher than the three-year average.
At this time last year, extremely cold temperatures resulted in large ice accumulations on the Illinois River that limited barge movements and halted traffic. This year, ice accumulations have caused few traffic delays on the Illinois River. However, repair work on the Upper Mississippi River has caused some traffic restrictions. The USDA and Corps of Engineers reports that Lock and Dam 20 in Canton, Mo., has been closed since Jan. 5 and is expected to reopen by March 6. The closure has restricted traffic between Lock 20 and Lock 25. Also, repairs are underway at Mississippi River Locks and Dam 27 near St. Louis. Locks 27 moves more cargo than any other navigation structure on the Mississippi. Locks 27 repairs should be completed by mid-February.
Though the news is good at the moment, with the USDA projecting lower corn and wheat exports for the year and the current faster pace of soybean exports, it is expected that the demand for grain transportation services will slow down during the second half of the marketing year.