WJ Editorial
WJ Editorial

Barge Industry Rights Itself

Peak soybean and corn harvest is approaching, and the Lower Mississippi and Gulf regions are still recovering from damage left by hurricanes Ida and Nicholas. According to some sources, the damage for the inland transportation industry was more widespread and extensive than that left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, even if New Orleans escaped the major flooding of Katrina. 

In Lafourche Parish, 23 percent of customers remain without power as of September 22, according to Entergy. Lower Jefferson Parish experienced 3,620 outages. In St. John, Tangipahoa and Terrebonne parishes, the percentages without power range between 4 and 6percent. Entergy gives September 29 as the date for full restoration. 

Terminal and grain elevator operators are still repairing damage. The extent of damage varies, but one grain elevator could be offline for weeks more, at the height of the corn and soybean harvest season. 

Inspections of corn, wheat and soybeans for export from all major U.S. exporting regions totaled 824,000 tons in the week that ended September 9. Inspections were up 2 percent from the previous week, but the total was 75 percent lower compared with the same week in 2020 and down 66 percent from the three-year average, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has allowed emergency waivers (for those who request them) for wheat inspections for barges loading directly onto ocean-going vessels. 

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Besides the damage from the hurricanes, low water on the Mississippi River has also slowed movements. 

However, initial reports of how many barges were scattered appear to have been exaggerated. As power comes back online and terminals repair and reopen, our industry has, as usual, been doing its utmost to get equipment back in service.

As the harvest accelerates, with high barge rates and grain piled up along the rivers and in elevators, late-season grain movements should be gangbusters.