Farmers waiting on river terminals to re-open say they haven't seen a paycheck in months due to rain

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VIOLA, Ill. (KWQC) - Farmers in Mercer County who transport their sold grain via the river say they haven't received a paycheck since December, and according to the US Department of Agriculture, these Illinois farmers aren't alone.

As of May 11, 2019, the amount of barrage tonnage traveling through the locking portions of the Mississippi, Ohio, and Arkansas Rivers, were 32% below the 3-year average.

Mercer County farmer Chad Bell tells KWQC he has 90,000 bushels of grain. But none of this corn or soy can be transported because of the high river levels.

"We've been sitting on grain since the first week of December and typically we start moving grain again mid-March but with the river being above flood stage for a long time now the river terminals haven't opened to received grain yet this year. So 60 days without being able to move grain out of our bins has been a little negative for us," says Bell.

A lot of his grain has been sold to river terminals, but like his colleagues, Bell won't get paid until that grain is transported.

"So the grain in the bin is essentially dollars for us. And so without being able to move that grain I don't have money to pay bills and I have to borrow more than usual and rely on other sources to keep food on the table and keep bills paid," says Bell.

But on the door of the river terminal is a handwritten sign that says "closed until river opens."

"The river terminal is a grain elevator essentially placed on the river. And those river terminals do is transport barges into the export market, and a lot of the grain we move down there ends up in foreign countries like China and Europe, so a lot of the grain that is sold to the river terminal ends up there," says Bell.

And transporting this grain using other methods is not a cost-effective option.

"Cost of freight eats into that pretty heavily so barge freight is the only way to accurately and profitably move that grain," says Bell.

And using another terminal, if it were to open up is also not a feasible option.

"Whichever terminal you sell grain to, you're essentially locked into that terminal, explains Bell.

Chad says the river terminal he uses was initially set to open up at the end of the week. But with the forecasted rain, "if the river levels continue to rise who knows when that will happen," says Bell.

Chad says until the river terminal opens, and he and other farmers are "sitting on their grain, waiting to send it out."

But when it comes to these tons of grain sold, when they're spoken for, they're spoken for. So it's truly just a matter of when they can make it down the river so that the farmers can get compensated.