MISSISSIPPI COUNTY, Ark.— As Mississippi River levels continue to head toward a record low, farmers in Mississippi County, Arkansas, have no way to ship their products down the river.
Like every other farmer rushing to get crops out of the ground, Dino Pirani knows he’s at the mercy of the Mississippi River, just three miles from where he and his workers were harvesting soybeans Tuesday.
“We take nothing “inland,” everything goes on the river, goes south to Louisiana where it’s processed and they decide whether it comes back up to the United States or goes on a vessel and goes across the ocean,” Pirani said. “Without that river taking our grain, we don’t get paid. We put everything we have into this crop all year long and we need to be able to sell our products and at a decent price.”
At the Poinsett Rice and grain terminal in the Osceola harbor, trucks are still dumping beans, for the time being at least, and barges are being loaded but not to their usual capacity.
“I’ve been here twenty years and this is the worst it’s been,” said Jeff Worsham, Osceola Harbor Port Manager.
Worsham said there are two major problems caused by the low river.
“We can still load barges. The main issue is getting the barges and the fact that we can only load at half capacity. We normally load to 12.6 draft but we’re sinking them now to nine foot,” he said.
Worsham said the process has double the cost of shipping downriver and it’s just basic math.
“Normally we put about 85 thousand bushels on them and right now we’re putting 50 to 55 thousand,” he said.
For now, tons of soybeans at the Poinsett Rice and Grain Terminal in Osceola are also being stored in a large warehouse at the harbor or in large bags capable of holding the contents of hundreds of grain trucks.