Agriculture shipments have restarted along the lower Mississippi River, though obstacles such as lack of labor, diesel fuel, electric power and transportation remain. Port of New Orleans terminal operators have been in touch with workers and expect to mobilize their labor pools by the middle of this week. Port President Gary LaGrange has set a goal for the Port to work its first commercial cargo ship by Sept. 14.

Adding to farmers’ need for access to the Port of New Orleans is the fact that ending corn and soybean stocks on Sept. 30, 2005, are forecast to be relatively high. In June, when USDA last reported stored soybean stocks on June 1, 2005, the total was 19.1 million tonnes—70 percent more than the previous June. These figures indicate that both farmers and commercial elevator operators will likely want to move soybeans out of storage facilities soon in preparation to accept this year’s harvest.

Meanwhile, deep-draft vessels are again navigating on the Lower Mississippi River after being restricted for nearly a week following Hurricane Katrina. The Army Corps of Engineers and Coast Guard will allow vessels with a draft (the amount of the vessel below the waterline) of 39 feet or less to navigate from the mouth of the Mississippi River to Baton Rouge, La. (normal draft limit is 45 feet). Also, the Coast Guard will permit two-way traffic.

Restoring navigation on the river is essential to restart grain and soybean exports through the CenterGulf. The peak export period for the CenterGulf will get underway as Corn Belt crop harvests begin. Not all grain export elevators are operational, either because of damage or because they lack power and employees. Most mid-stream facilities are operating or will be soon.

The CenterGulf handles nearly 60 percent of all U.S. grain and soybean exports annually, about three quarters of all corn exports, and about 70 percent of all soybeans. Since 1995, CenterGulf grain and soybean exports averaged more than 5.17 million tonnes during September, or about 8 percent of annual exports through the CenterGulf. Exports through the CenterGulf during the September/November quarter represent about 28 percent of annual CenterGulf exports. There was no export inspections recorded for the CenterGulf for the week that ended Sept. 1, after totaling 887,000 tonnes the previous week while averaging 816,000 tonnes the previous four weeks.

American Soybean Association/ ASA Weekly Update