Conditions are set for a particularly bleak winter for the many, many countries and communities reliant on goods shipped by way of the Mississippi River. October saw yet another month of particularly dry conditions and, with harvest season, many locations along the river are clogged with barges unable to pass a waterway that normally spans a full mile but has dwindled to less than half a mile. Bloomberg reports that goods like grains are simply not being exported the ways they normally would be, with prices to ship barges of soy, corn, wheat, and other staples rising more than 2,000%.
Due to barges’ massive sizes and the Mississippi River’s series of locks and channels meant to mitigate flooding, navigating the country’s second-longest river has become impossible at some points. And there is simply no equivalent alternative for goods producers like farmers and industrial facilities to get their products where they need to go. Shipping by train or truck sends significantly more emissions into the atmosphere and costs substantially more money. The owner of a cement company in Chicago told Bloomberg that even using alternative waterways, like the St. Lawrence River, would triple shipping costs for his company.