Warm weather throughout the Midwest allowed for an early start to navigation on the Mississippi River, with barge tows now operating as far north as Hastings, Minnesota, just south of Minneapolis.
However, a lack of farmer selling has lessened the ability to move barges south. One river shipper said they are loading corn and soybean barges this week that were sold weeks ago, while new sales were slow.
Corn bids at the Gulf have held steady despite the availability of South American grain, shippers said. The firm bids on the river combined with the light farmer selling caused processors in eastern Iowa to raise basis bids.
Corn for March shipment to the Gulf was bid 38 over the CBOT May this week unchanged from last week and April shipment was bid 38 over, also unchanged. Soybeans bids at the Gulf rose a little this past week with March bid 28 over and April 25, both of which are up a few cents from last week.
Shipping grain by rail to the PNW is now being hampered by rain and spring thaw, with the moisture softening roadbeds. A report in Railway Age on Monday said several grain cars on a Union Pacific rolled down an embankment last week when the roadway gave way near Moyie Springs, Idaho. Also, it said a landslide in eastern Idaho disrupted service about a day on a BNSF line.
In its weekly Grain Transportation Report, USDA said rail shipments of grain to the PNW during the week ended March 8 were slipped to 7,491 from the prior week’s 7,593. However, year-to-date shipments there remain higher than a year ago.
Active barge movement
Barge grain shipments during the week ended March 11 totaled 847,300 tons, up 4% from the prior week and up 73% from a year ago, according to the grain transportation report.
Grain vessel loadings at the Gulf remained active with USDA reporting 46 vessels loaded during the week of March 9, up 12% from a year ago. Sixty seven vessels are expected to be loaded in the next 10 days, up 29% from a year ago, the report said.
In the rail sector, grain car loadings totaled 23,991 for the week ended March 4, up 13% from the prior week and up 8% from a year ago.
For truckers, the U.S. average diesel fuel price dropped 2 cents during the week ended March 13 to $2.58 per gallon. That is up 47 cents from a year ago.
USDA’s latest weekly grain inspections are detailed in the following table and charts.