Sunday, April 13, 2008

Climate Change and the Barge Biz. Plus: Whither Wheat? And: Paul Robeson

Good thing there's no food in the grain elevators*.
From the Pierce County Herald (Apr. 3):
With portions of Lake Pepin still covered by 27 inches of ice it may be awhile before the opening of the shipping season on the upper Mississippi River....MORE
From the Red Wing Republican-Eagle (Apr. 11):

First spring barge arrives
The latest arrival in 30 years was met with rain and sleet Thursday when the David L. Griggs passed through Red Wing.

The first barges represented the beginning of the 2008 shipping season on the Upper Mississippi.

The David L. Griggs arrived in Red Wing at about 5:30 p.m. Thursday on its way to St. Paul. The tow was pushing 15 barges. It cleared Lock and Dam 4 in Alma, Wis., just before 10 a.m. Thursday.

The season got off its latest start in 30 years due to cold temperatures creating thicker ice on Lake Pepin — the last part of the river to break up due to its width. According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the average opening date over the past 30 years has been March 20. The first tow to reach St. Paul last year arrived March 29.

*We are in a very dangerous position re: grain inventories. Wheat Stocks are at their lowest level in 30 years:

...“The all wheat stocks number came in at 710 million bushels. That's down 17 percent from last year, but again, it was higher than expectations,” she said. “These are the lowest stocks in over 30 years, but the market had already taken that into consideration, so the higher than expected number obviously didn't sit well with the market.“If you look at just the on-farm stocks that farmers have in their hands, that's at 92 million bushels, which is less than half of what we had at this time last year, and the lowest level since 1937,” she continued. “So the majority of wheat that's out there is in commercial hands.”...Source

Any weather problems turn a balanced market into a malnourishment problem.
A wheat pathogen problem means folks go hungry.

Washington state:
Wheat mosaic virus confirmed, appears to have spread
North Dakota:
Despite best efforts, wheat leaf rust resistance problems continue

Paul Robeson's classic rendition of "Ol' Man River"