Here’s the latest from the USDA on grain movements on the lower Mississippi. It’s an optimistic assessment:
Mississippi River Export Grain Industry Recovering From Hurricane Katrina, USDA, Sept. 7, 2005: Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns today reported that government and industry are working together to quickly restore normal export grain movement along the lower Mississippi River for the upcoming peak shipping season.
Despite substantial damage to waterways and grain handling facilities, assessments are near completion, cleanup is underway, ships again are moving and a majority of elevators in the region are resuming operations at reduced levels of activity. "I am encouraged by the resumption of grain movement along the Mississippi River just one week after grain transportation was virtually halted by Hurricane Katrina," said Johanns. "Clearly, there is much work to be done but I am confident that remaining obstacles will be overcome to resume all activity in a timely manner. We are assuring our international customers that we expect minimal disruptions." There are 10 export elevators in the surrounding New Orleans area and 3 "floating rigs" that do not have storage capacity but can load 30,000 to 60,000 bushels of grain per hour from river barges directly on to ocean-going vessels or ocean-going barges. In total, these elevators have a storage capacity of approximately 53 million bushels of grain with a capability of loading 970,000 bushels per hour when fully operational. The operational capacity of the elevators and floating rigs is estimated at 63% as of today, with vessel restrictions (arrivals and departures), slower barge movements and limited staffing minimizing full utilization of loading capacity. Ships are again moving in the channel. The focus now is on restoring power to facilities, ensuring adequate staffing, and reinstalling navigational aids to ensure safe passage. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Department of Transportation (DOT), Army Corp of Engineers, Coast Guard, and Department of Homeland Security are working closely with industry to address these needs with the expectation that shipping will rapidly be returned to normal levels.
Also, the latest weekly Grain Transportation Report is out (all reports, latest report). While most of the data in the report end just before the hurricane hit, there is a brief summary at the beginning relating to the hurricane, and some post hurricane data are in the report. It notes, for example, that "The United States exports approximately one-quarter of the grain it produces. On average, it includes nearly 45 percent of U.S.- grown wheat, 35 percent of U.S.- grown soybeans, and 20 percent of the U.S.- grown corn. Approximately 55 percent of these U.S. export grain shipments departed through the Mississippi Gulf region in 2004."