Mississippi grain transports to recover in time for harvest?

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Usda

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) last week announced new
measures to free up barges on the Mississippi river in an attempt
to restore the grain transportation system-disrupted by Hurricane
Katrina- in time for peak harvest.

The $7.6m effort to unload spoilt grain from barges that are currently blocking up the river is a move to ensure that harvested grain is transported on time in order to prevent a negative market impact.

"There are around 250 barges loaded with commodities damaged by flood waters. They are not getting unloaded as no one wants the spoilt grain, and they are just causing traffic. The USDA is now trying to get help to unload this spoilt grain,"​ said James Goff, special programs manager of the USDA's Farm Service Agency.

"If the barges don't get moving then the whole system blocks up, farmers will not be able to market their commodities, which could in turn cause supply shortages and price increases,"​ he added.

The Mississippi River is the cheapest route for shipping many crops and other commodities that are destined for overseas and domestic markets.

The area is still recovering from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina that first struck the New Orleans region on August 29, causing substantial damage to waterways and grain handling facilities. Grain transportation along the Mississippi had virtually halted as parts of the river had become inaccessible.

As peak harvesting season for corn is fast approaching, the USDA is accepting proposals to help unload the spoilt commodities in order to quickly move the empty barges upstream to the areas where grains are being harvested.

"Our goal is to quickly unload barges so they can be reloaded with newly harvested grains,"​ said agricultural secretary Mike Johanns.

Previously, the USDA has provided freight differential incentives to move 294,770 metric tons of corn, wheat and soybeans through Great Lakes and Pacific Northwest ports.

USDA incentives also promoted the movement of 209,238 tons of damaged corn out of New Orleans and the storage of nearly 42 million bushels of corn and wheat in alternative facilities, relieving the pressure placed on commercial markets because of the transportation stress.

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