U.S. Midwest flooding bogs down mills, railroad operations
Date: Thursday, March 21, 2019
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI, U.S. — Flooding that struck the Midwest in mid-March looked to have a long-term impact on agriculture and the food industry. Rail transportation was disrupted. Affected operations included an Ardent Mills’ grain elevator in Fremont, Nebraska, U.S., where the town of more than 26,000 temporarily turned into a “virtual island,” and Manildra Milling Hamburg in Hamburg, Iowa, U.S.
A March 19 article in the Omaha World-Herald said more than two-thirds of Nebraska’s counties were in a state of emergency. In the article, Steve Nelson, president of the Nebraska Farm Bureau, estimated $400 million to $500 million in livestock losses and about $400 million in crop losses.
Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts on March 19 met with Paul Taylor, regional director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and signed and submitted Nebraska’s expedited request to the federal government for disaster assistance.
“Right now it’s still a little too early to tell what the full impacts will be,” Caroline Clements (Brauer), agricultural promotion coordinator for the Nebraska Wheat Board and executive director of the Nebraska Wheat Growers Association, told Milling & Baking News, a sister publication of World Grain, on March 18. “We know there is on-farm storage of grain that is under water in communities and damage to infrastructure like roads and bridges in some areas. However, to this point efforts have been focused on securing the safety of human life and are starting to focus on livestock. As waters recede, we’ll likely get a clearer picture.”
Denver, Colorado, U.S.-based Ardent Mills owns a grain elevator operation in Fremont that has a storage capacity of 1.2 million bushels, according to the 2018 Grain & Milling Annual from Sosland Publishing Company, Kansas City, Missouri, U.S. The company last year closed a flour mill in Fremont.
“Today, team members with Ardent Mills' Fremont, Nebraska, grain elevator facility were assessing its operational status in the wake of widespread flooding in the area from the Platte river,” Ardent Mills said March 18. “All team members are safe, and their homes have been spared. The town of Fremont became a virtual island last Friday (March 15) as all major roads surrounding the city closed due to flooding that has swept across eastern Nebraska in recent days.
“Safety is a core value at Ardent Mills. Fremont area residents are reminded to take every precaution, both at home and work, as they deal with the aftermath of the flooding.”
Manildra Group USA, Leawood, Kansas, U.S., operates Manildra Milling Hamburg.
“Unfortunately, our Hamburg plant was directly impacted by the flooding,” said Neal Bassi, president of Manildra Group USA, on March 18. “The extent of the damage and longevity of the impact is still unknown. First and foremost, everyone is safe. Our primary concern is for our employees, their families and their homes, including the community and their facilities. We intend to start operations once all utilities have been restored and repaired to the city.”
He added, “We are in the process of updating all of our customers who have been impacted. We appreciate their patience and support as we work diligently to resume operations and rebuild supplies.”
Rail transportation issues affected ADM Milling.
“The combination of flooding and cold weather throughout the Midwest has made the operating environment challenging throughout the first quarter,” said Chris Cuddy, president of Carbohydrate Solutions for Chicago-based Archer Daniels Midland Co., on March 18. “In Nebraska and Iowa, all ADM milling facilities are open. However, rail transportation is limited in several areas due to flooding. We are working to leverage our extensive transportation and operating network as much as possible to meet customer needs. This is a difficult time for the communities where many of our employees and customers live and work, and we are focused on working together with all partners involved to manage through this situation.”
Union Pacific employees were working around the clock to restore rail service in areas experiencing widespread flooding and track washouts, said Raquel Espinoza, senior director, corporate communications and media relations for Union Pacific Railroad, Omaha, Nebraska, U.S., on March 19. Impacted routes included railroad tracks located between Fremont and Grand Island, Nebraska, and Missouri Valley, Iowa. Other routes included rail lines located between Valley, Nebraska, and Lincoln, Nebraska, and Council Bluffs, Iowa, to Kansas City, Kansas.
Record flooding in portions of South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska and Missouri was causing major disruptions to BNSF Railway service and operations in the region, said Amy Casas, director of corporate communications for BNSF Railway, Fort Worth, Texas, U.S., on March 19.
“Recent heavy rain and snowmelt have caused area rivers to reach historic levels in many locations,” she said. “With multiple washouts and high water on BNSF main lines in the area, several subdivisions remain out of service. We are also anticipating additional closures in the next 24 to 36 hours involving our Hannibal and River Subdivisions that run adjacent to the Mississippi river.”
BNSF crews are conducting ongoing assessments and inspections regarding the condition of main lines, she said.
“Additional resources, including ballast, are being deployed to affected locations to make track repairs as quickly as possible,” she said. “While service on some subdivisions has already been restored, with speed restrictions in place where necessary, normal train flows in the area are likely not to resume for an extended period. Customers should expect continued delays on shipments scheduled to move through the area.”