The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has released data regarding the water level in the Mississippi River. Much of the imported nitrogen fertilizer the U.S. applies each year comes up the river from the Gulf of Mexico. Levels have continued to decline through the winter, and while some reports have recent rains improving the situation at certain points along the river, the NOAA report projects water levels to continue to fall.
Roughly 5-6 million tons of nitrogen and ammonia make their way northward through the nation's primary shipping lane each year. A single barge carries around 1500 tons of material when river levels are normal, but the barges that are floated are carrying less cargo to make way for the encroaching river bottom.
The news remains largely unchanged. Levels are at historic lows and the Army Corps of Engineers continues to dredge and blast to make a channel in this arterial shipping lane. But only God can make a river, and without some much needed rain -- and a lot of it -- river traffic will continue to struggle, straining the transport of valuable commodities. According to NOAA's projections, the Mississippi River has a long way to go before normal traffic can resume.