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News Update
Sept. 1, 2005

Hurricane Katrina Devastates Country, Cripples Ag Shipments

The destruction of Hurricane Katrina, which ravaged the South earlier this week, is becoming more apparent with new reports of the devastation — the death toll, rescue efforts, looting and disease concerns.

In the days following the aftermath of one the worst disasters in recent U.S. history, other nationwide consequences of Katrina are becoming clearer. In addition to closed oil refineries and soaring gas prices, the closing of the Port of New Orleans in Louisiana poses serious transportation and distribution challenges, especially for agriculture.

According to The Associated Press, more than half of the nation’s grain exports depart from the port for shipment overseas. With shipping terminals and other facilities closed, however, approximately 300 barges containing grains and other products are bottlenecking in rivers north of New Orleans, and import shipments are likewise searching for alternative routes, The New York Times noted.

While main transportation arteries remained clogged, the production of several products could be delayed, the article stated. With the grain industry’s heavy reliance on the river barge system and harvest less than one month away, market effects seem imminent unless the problem can be remedied soon.

Truck Restrictions Eased to Transport Ag Products

With main waterways closed and most river barge transportation stalled, alternative transportation by rail and truck offer a much more expensive option, given the week’s sky-rocketing fuel costs. Some states, like Florida, are trying to cushion the effects and offer relief following the hurricane.

According to the High Plains Journal, Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles Bronson announced yesterday the state Department of Transportation has lifted weight restrictions normally placed on commercial vehicles to assist in hurricane recovery. New restrictions allow weights to be lifted for trucks including those carrying livestock, fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, and timber. Weight limits went from 80,000 pounds (lb.) to 95,000 lb., and will be effective for 60 days from Aug. 24, when the order was originally signed.

Gas Prices Exceed $3, Spike at $5

Fearing a national gas crisis, consumers flocked to gas stations today, where prices reached as high as $5 per gallon in some areas, CNN.com reports. Price hikes prompted President Bush to warn against price gouging and to encourage Americans to conserve.

Organizations Request Hurricane Relief

The American Red Cross is seeking donations for hurricane victims. Visit www.redcross.org or call 1-800-HELP-NOW.

The American Meat Institute (AMI) has also announced an industry-wide “Meating the Need” program, geared toward relieving victims of Hurricane Katrina. Program coordinators are seeking donations in full truckload quantities, including beef jerky, canned meats and canned meals such as hearty soups, stews and chili. Bottled water, hand-held snacks, peanut butter and cleaning and disinfecting items also are desperately needed. Second Harvest also is seeking donated transportation to move supplies.

If you can donate any of these items or transportation, please contact Second Harvest at 1-800-771-2303 and ask for any one of the following staff members: Dan La Bonte, Ext. 142; Diane Letson, Ext. 145; Randy Starck, Ext. 134; Ron Taritas, Ext. 192; or Richard Vanden Bout, Ext. 120. Monetary donations can be made online at www.secondharvest.org.

— by Crystal Albers, Angus Productions Inc., associate editor

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