Mid-South farmer expects food prices to rise due to low river levels

Published: Oct. 10, 2022 at 7:23 PM CDT
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WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. (WMC) - We’re in the middle of grain harvesting season, a bad time for the Mississippi River to be among one of the lowest points in recorded history.

The National Weather Service’s Memphis river gauge measured -6.13ft. on Monday afternoon, but their predictions anticipate the river to drop to -9.4ft. by the weekend.

The all-time low is -10.7ft, set in 1988.

Dannie Daughhetee was just getting his start as a farmer in Crittenden County and says he didn’t have enough land and crop yield for river levels to make an impact on him.

He has 7,000 acres and is paying more attention to how the river impacts his livelihood.

“We’ve had some lows in the past, but it’s nothing compared to what it is right now,” said Daughhetee.

Traditionally, it takes one of Daughhetee’s employees an hour or so to drop a truckload of grain off at the Consolidated Grain & Barge, known commonly as the CGB, in West Memphis.

He says a truck may wait as long as six hours.

Currently, shipping companies on the southern portion of the Mississippi have voluntarily reduced their tows from 36 to 25 barges, a more than 30% reduction, as well as a 30% reduction of the product in each barge, to reduce draft on the river.

It’s to the point where farmers who have storage space in their grain bins are dumping their load in the dirt at the CGB because they don’t have 6 hours to kill.

“Everything is fixing to have to be shipped by trucks,” said Daughhetee. “Whenever you do that, you’re looking at so much more freight. Somebody is going to have to eat the cost.”

Daughhetee said he’s already eating into his profit margins, paying high costs for diesel fuel to operate his equipment.

Already, grain prices across the board continue on an upward trajectory, and those grains impact more than just what’s on the bread aisle at the grocery store.

“What we’re producing goes to cattle feed, chicken feed, hog feed..your corn flakes and frosted flakes,” said Daughhetee. “It’s all made from wheat and beans and rice. It might take another year for the consumer to see it, but they are going to see some outrageous prices.”

Daughhetee and other farmers are following along with the old saying and are praying for rain.

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