The Mississippi River, of course, is the major avenue for grain exports to reach the Gulf of Mexico and overseas markets. And when news spread Tuesday that the Coast Guard had closed a stretch of the waterway north of New Orleans, futures prices rallied.
In contracts for July delivery, wheat, corn and soybeans all posted double-digit gains on fears of disrupted shipments in a global market where supplies are tight.
The trade was already concerned about the slow pace of planting this spring, and nowhere is the angst more warranted than in the eastern Corn Belt.
The corn belt is a study in contrasts this spring. On the western side, favorable weather has enabled farmers to get most of their corn in the ground. But in the eastern side, persistent rain and cold conditions have stalled planting.
According to WeatherBill, a technology company that delivers weather analysis and crop insurance, South Dakota, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio each are looking at nearly $1.5 billion in crop losses. The risk-management company says excessive rain will curtail yields to about 964 million bushels in the Corn Belt, valued at nearly $6.7 billion dollars.
Jeff Hamlin, Director of Agronomic Research for WeatherBill: "In most cases the bushels at risk are top-end bushels that are completely uninsured by the federal crop insurance program, meaning that the entire $6.7 billion of potential losses would come directly out of farmers' pockets."
In Ohio, where only 7 percent of the state's corn crop has been planted, last month, was the wettest April in history. Farmers in Illinois experienced their wettest April since 1895. While in, Wisconsin planters endured the third wettest month in the last 30 years.
And as if to add insult to injury, rain is in the forecast in most of the region and is expected, which could exacerbate the problem.