Included in today's USDA Grain Transportation Report, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) U.S. Winter Outlook(released October 20), the drought affecting the Mississippi River System (MRS) is expected to continue or worsen.

NOAA predicts near- or below-average precipitation for the region through January. Some shippers are waiting to ship grain until January, or even spring 2023, in hopes that MRS conditions will improve. Although demand is still present for barges in the near term, barge lines are reluctant to add more freight in the near term beyond prior commitments.

For the week of November 1, the St. Louis barge spot rate (GTR table 9) fell 9 percent from last week to $80.12 per ton, 24 % lower than its peak the week of October 11, but 397 % higher than last year. The number of grain barges unloaded in New Orleans (GTR fig. 12) fell 30 % from last week to 598, 25 % lower than last year during the same week and 16 % lower than the 3-year average.

Read the full report here.