According to today's USDA Grain Transportation Report, for the week of January 10, the barge rate near St. Louis was 541% above tariff ($21.59/ton), down 25% from last week and down 20% from the same week last year (GTR table 8).

This was the first time since the week of September 9, 2022, that the barge rate was below its same period last year. The current barge rate is 80% lower than the all-time peak of 2,653 percent above tariff ($105.85/ton) during the week of October 11, 2022.

The 3-month forward barge rate dropped 7% from last week to 422 percent above tariff ($16.84/ton), but remains 35% higher than last year.

The falling rates reflect improved navigation conditions on the Mississippi River System (MSR). Increased precipitation on portions of the river, the completion of harvest, and increased draft sizes (in most places) have all helped to normalize the system.

The area between Cairo, IL, and St. Louis, MO, will need more precipitation to maintain current water levels in the Upper Mississippi River, but there, too, navigation conditions have improved.