Blog / News / Low Mississippi River Water Levels Might Affect Crop Exports


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Bloomberg journalist Michael Hirtzer stated in a report on Friday that “America’s crop exports face a renewed threat because the Mississippi River has shrunk.

The river has narrowed due to several months of dry weather and the hottest summer on record, which impacts the transportation of grain and soybeans from the Midwest to the Gulf Coast ports.”

To make up for the reduced water levels, barge operators are currently carrying less cargo.

“As a consequence, prices offered to farmers for their crops are decreasing, and the market is experiencing additional pressure due to the autumn harvest season.”

  Hyperspectral imagery for Agriculture. Grant from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

second year in a row water levels in the Mississippi River are reaching record lows.

“In September, shipping costs for barges on the river experienced a substantial increase, as spot rates surged by as much as 64% in a week in Memphis, Tennessee, according to data from the US Department of Agriculture. These elevated transportation expenses have contributed to making US crops comparatively more expensive than those from countries like Brazil, especially as larger South American harvests were already gaining a larger share of the market.”

Meanwhile, in a report by Jacey Fortin in Saturday’s New York Times, it was highlighted that the people of New Orleans, accustomed to preparing for hurricanes and floods, faced a new threat: the slow encroachment of salty water into the Mississippi River, putting the city’s municipal drinking water supplies at risk. The community’s response was to stock up on bottled water from grocery store shelves.

However, this crisis differs from a typical storm because the worst of the saltwater intrusion isn’t anticipated to reach the city until late October, with the possibility of the salty water persisting for an extended period, potentially causing damage to the city’s lead-lined pipes.

According to The Times article, the crisis stems from drought conditions in the Midwest, which have depleted water levels in the Mississippi River. This, in turn, has created a situation where salty water from the Gulf can infiltrate upstream beneath a layer of freshwater.

Additionally, Fortin noted that officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have indicated that the “saltwater wedge,” which has already impacted communities downstream, may approach water treatment facilities close to New Orleans in approximately a month’s time, potentially leading to the introduction of salty water into household taps.

Roughly one million individuals residing in southeastern Louisiana could potentially be impacted by this situation.

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