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Mississippi River Closures Expected -- Not For Lack of Water

April 19, 2013
By: Davis Michaelsen, Pro Farmer Inputs Monitor Editor

The Mississippi River is making a comeback after last summer's drought threatened to derail transport of goods and commodities up and down the river. The Army Corps. of Engineers had been working since August to clear a channel for barge traffic which was already under load-lightening restrictions.

When it rains, it pours and the Mississippi is again facing potential closures, but not for low water. National Weather Service predictions expect areas from the Red River to St. Louis and most tributaries in between to experience flooding reminiscent of 2008 and may temporarily limit river traffic through problem areas.stlouisflood

Late season snows and heavy rains have boosted water levels above flood stage and cities downriver are bracing for the flood's impacts. Meanwhile, December '13 corn looks for some positive weather news, and this may contribute to a short-term rally.

"While a total closure of the river would be negative for corn prices, a partial closure is likely instead, and that will lead buyers to pay a premium to obtain corn from other areas," said Jim Gerlach, president of A/C Trading Co. "The fact that it's not a sustained closure I think is supportive, not negative, for the market. But, as time goes on and the river goes down, that's probably not an issue."

Fertilizer pricing may be affected, but as most of this spring's product is already in the machine shed, any price increases will subside with the floodwaters, largely unnoticed by end-users.

As soil moisture gains a foothold in the Corn Belt, agronomists have observed very little ponding as much of the precipitation soaks deep into the ground where thirsty subsoil lies. This is favorable for river traffic and for the soil, but areas where flooding has been a problem in past years are already filling sandbags and preparing for the worst.

Photo credit: The Library of Congress /


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