First, they've requested to move on the rock pinnacle blasting as soon as possible. The Corps original time frame called for a February removal. They recently moved it up to January. Weinzierl says the ag industry would like to see work begin well before Christmas.
Secondly, the letter asks for additional water to be released from the six Missouri River reservoirs. The Mississippi River's woes stem from a reduced flow from the Missouri River, which is a result of the continued drought in the Western Great Plains.
Currently, the Corps is experimenting with releasing rates from 12,000 to 18,000 cubic feet per second. As the Corps backs off the rate, some municipalities' water supply intake pipes have started to suck air.
Weinzierl says the industry is requesting a rate of 22,000 cubic feet/second, which would help raise depth for better navigation.
Fertilizer supply concerns
If Mother Nature doesn't begin dumping rain on the Midwest soon, this problem could extend well into 2013. Fertilizer could become difficult to secure.
Jean Payne, president of the Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association, expects this will cause problems in Illinois, but may be even worse in Iowa.
"Hurricane Isaac gave Illinois an anhydrous ammonia season this fall," Payne notes. "It didn't do the same for Iowa."
Going west, the soil only gets drier. Many are praying for rain and a window to apply spring fertilizer. Hopefully that rain comes soon, as approximately 30%-60% of the upper Midwest relies on the Mississippi River to transport fertilizer, Payne adds.
Retailers don't expect rail will bail them out. The rail car capacity simply doesn't exist, particularly for UAN and anhydrous ammonia, Payne says.
"The rail cars dedicated to carrying anhydrous ammonia and UAN are already spoken for," she adds.
Back on the grain side of things, Weinzierl says rail cannot account for lost river shipping capacity. Illinois ships approximately 100 to 120 million bushels of corn south on Canadian National Railways each year. The river system usually ships 300 million bushels of corn south in just the upcoming three-month period. It's one more wrinkle in a year that's starting off with extremely low corn stocks.
Farmers weathering 2012 are learning plenty about everything from crop insurance to seed genetics as parched conditions reshape farm business across the country. Consider our 5-part approach to moving ahead after the toughest drought since the 1930s.