Widespread flooding disrupts U.S. grain industry
September 01, 1993
by Teresa Acklin
Flooding that in some areas exceeded 500-year levels disrupted much of the grain industry in the U.S. Midwest this summer.
The casualties ranged from unplanted maize to unshipped wheat to unbaked bread. The waters washed away fields, roads and railroad tracks and forced the closings of storage and handling facilities, flour mills and baking plants from Minnesota and the eastern Dakotas south through eastern Kansas and Missouri.
The worst of the flooding centered on grain and processing facilities located along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers and their tributaries. Hardest hit were plants around St. Louis, Missouri, where the two major rivers converge; and Des Moines, Iowa, where the heaviest rains fell. Kansas City, Missouri, a major Midwest rail hub at the confluence of the Missouri and Kansas rivers, also was affected.
The flooding created serious problems for regional transportation and grain shipping routes. The Mississippi River, the major waterway for maize, soybeans and soft red winter wheat movement to export position, was closed to barge traffic in late June.
About 30% of the barge fleet was idled. The river was not expected to re-open fully until September or later, after waters receded and inspection and repair to locks and dams were completed.
By mid-July some exporters were arranging for overland shipments to the West Coast to meet export commitments. For a time in late July, even those routes began to look problematic, as the persistently rising waters took out key rail mainlines.
More than 500 miles of rail track were under water at some point during the period. The American Association of Railroads estimated the cost of repairing physical damage to the tracks at U.S.$100 million to $200 million.