Reports indicate that if the Army Corps of Engineers continues to restrict water from the Upper Missouri River, the Mississippi River (between the confluence with the Missouri in St. Louis to the Ohio River 180 miles south in Cairo, Illinois) will fall to 9 feet or less, which could stall all barge traffic south of St. Louis. Barges are already being forced to shed about half of their load in order to get product either up- or downstream. President of the Pike County Chapter of the Illinois Farm Bureau Dan Gay says it costs about the same to float the barge down the river – whether it’s full or half full, so reduced drafts increase transportation costs. And if farmers are driven to use rail or trucks to haul their products – Gay says that will increase the cost even more, not to mention the issue of fertilizer heading upstream for spring planting.
Gay points out that it is not just farm products – but other commodities that move on the river – including road salt, fuel, lumber and other commodities that impact the Midwest economy beside farming.