Rain in the upper Midwest region caused flooding along the Mississippi and Illinois rivers and as far south as Tennessee, forcing officials to close several locks and causing farmers to delay corn planting.
Barge shipping halted Friday on parts of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers when several locks were closed, Reuters reports. The closures will last at least until the middle of the week, according to the US Army Corps of Engineers.
About 60 percent of US grain export shipments are moved on barges along the Mississippi and its tributaries from production centers in the Midwest to export terminals at the Gulf of Mexico, Reuters says.
The rain and subsequent flooding is also affecting farmers who are still recovering from last year’s historic drought, which cut production of corn to a six-year low, Bloomberg reports.
The worst US drought in 50 years caused widespread damage to corn and soybean crops, helping push up global food prices. The drought also led to record-low water levels along a key stretch of the Mississippi River in January, which threatened to shut down commerce, jeopardizing shipments worth billions of dollars.
Winter snow and early spring rains have improved moisture in the US crop belt’s top soil, a senior agricultural meteorologist for MDA Weather Services said last week. However, storms on April 17 and 18 dropped 5.4 inches of rain on Chicago and as much as 6 inches in sections of eastern Iowa, triggering floods along rivers further south, according to Bloomberg.
Another portion of the flooded Mississippi River was closed Sunday by the US Coast Guard after about 30 barges carrying coal and grain broke loose near Vicksburg, Miss.. The waterway will be closed to all vessels except those directly involved in recovery efforts, the US Coast Guard said in statement.
The lead barge struck the Vicksburg Railroad Bridge, which is now closed. Some 15 barges have been recovered, AP reports.