Katrina's economic impact is being felt far from the Gulf Coast. Barge operators in Missouri and farmers in Iowa are worrying about how long the Mississippi River might be closed to barge and ship traffic.
"A lot of our grain here goes down the river to the Gulf of Mexico, and we don't know how long it is before the ports down there open," said LuAnn Robinson, a grain negotiator for the National Farmers Organization in Ames, Iowa. "There's going to be piles all over if we can't ship down the river."
Barge operators don't have anywhere to drop off the last stored grains, and the fall corn harvest begins in less than a month.
"All the facilities are knocked out. We can get everything but there are no facilities down there," said Bruce Engert, the general manager of the Missouri Barge Line Co. in Cape Girardeau, Mo.
Gulf Coast ports in Texas are scrambling to handle cargo that must be diverted from Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.
"This will not be cleaned up quickly. This is going to be a slow process," said Floyd Gaspard, the director of the Port of Port Arthur, Texas.
UPDATE: Related - Chiquita Brands relocates banana deliveries from Gulfport MS as noted here.
Chiquita also reported its 20 employees in Gulfport have been accounted for. That port handled about 25 percent of the company's banana imports to the U.S. last year. In all, Chiquita uses five ports in the States.Just the tip of the iceberg...