MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Mississippi River is headed toward a record low, taking agriculture and industry into dangerous waters.
Friday, Christi Bland was at the wheel of her John Deere, taking advantage of excellent weather to finish harvesting her family’s rice crop in Quitman County.
Bland says her rice is usually exported to China.
“I’m a fourth-generation farmer. I’ve been farming full-time for the last seven to eight years with my dad,” Bland said.
“Really good harvest conditions because it’s been really dry, but with that comes other issues,” Bland said.
That other “issue” is the Mississippi River, about forty miles away in Tunica.
“The river is so low that a lot of grain elevators aren’t taking much grain because the barges can’t go down the river,” Bland said.
Bland says the low river is forcing grain elevator operators to charge farmers more for storage and shipping and those factors are eating into the farmer’s profits and soon could be impacting consumers.
“If the farmers are having to pay increased prices to ship it or store it then that will increase the food prices and the consumer will have to eat that cost,” Bland said.
But experts say it’s still too early to know exactly what kind of impact the low river will have on your pocketbook unless the river stays low and farmers are forced to pay more to get their crops downriver.
Crops like corn and soybeans are exported and used primarily in feed for livestock but soybean oil is sold to consumers or used commercially.
“From where we are it’s a lot cheaper to ship it by barge, in a lot of cases, than by rail or trucks,” said Brian Mills, an agricultural economist at Mississippi State University. “So that increases your cost of transportation of moving it if you can’t ship it by barge.”