Earlier this week the U.S. Coast Guard shut down a 15 mile section of the Mississippi River north of Baton Rouge near Natchez, Miss., due to high water. The Army Corps of Engineers alleviated some of the rising waters in the area by opening the Morganza Spillway, which flooded several thousand acres along the river. The Coast Guard has reopened the river at Natchez but continues to limit traffic in the section.
According to Farm Futures Market Analyst Arlan Suderman the river may be shut down again as record high flood waters continue on the river. Even when the river is open, barge traffic will be slower as they will not be able to move as quickly through the flood waters, so grain shipments will be slower until waters recede, but Suderman doesn't see this as a problem.
"In the end we're probably not going to see a major reduction in export trade," Suderman said. "This isn't a time when we have a major lineup of ships needing it now type of thing like we were in the fall when we were shipping soybeans out as fast as we possibly could out of every possible port."
Erick Erickson of the U.S. Grains Council agrees that exports will likely not be affected by the current situation on the river. He says in talking with shipping agents and others in the area they have pointed out that this is the slow season as far as exports are concerned and this is flood season so they are pretty calm about it because it's part of the annual cycle anyway.
"It's not like this is a surprise, this is an annual thing," Erickson said. "Even the prospect of a record high flood is something that can be foreseen and a lot of grain companies have anticipated that and have supplies at the Gulf ready to work with so the industry doesn't feel like this is going to affect our ability to meet our export commitments."
Erickson says the release of water into the spillways lowered the crest of the river at New Orleans by about a foot and a half, which alleviated some of the risks. He says most of the big export elevators in the port are operating.