The Mississippi River Ebbs, and Farmers Stock Up

The river may soon be so low that barges can’t pass St. Louis
A dredging vessel near Greenville, Miss. Photograph by Rogelio V. Solis/AP Photo

The trucks begin lining up early in the morning at the Growmark Bussen Terminal south of downtown St. Louis, their driver-side doors bearing the names of farm towns such as Ste. Genevieve, Mo., and Bunker Hill, Ill. They come to pick up fertilizer from Russia and the Middle East that’s been shipped to the Gulf of Mexico and then to barges going up the Mississippi River. Farms are rushing to get what they need before the river’s dropping water levels shut off the flow of cargo, threatening next season’s crops. “Worst-case scenario, we run very short of supplies when they’re needed for planting,” says Joe Dillier, plant food director for Bloomington (Ill.)-based Growmark, a provider of farm equipment and fertilizer. His company is stockpiling as much urea and potash—ingredients in fertilizer—as it can in its warehouse.

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