The Missouri River is ready to move barges to and from St. Joseph, and that’s something that couldn’t be said for a good portion of 2019.

“The reports that we have, it should stay at, or below, flood stage here for the next couple of months,” Jason Laipple, Transport 360 general manager, said.

Transport 360 is the operator at St. Joseph Port Authority. On Monday, three barges were filled, with two preparing to ship out the first grain ever from the port.

Chief Executive Officer Bill Becker was among the crew helping with loading product.

“It’s expanding tremendously, we should do overall about 20 barges, I believe, between the fall and down into winter,” Becker said. “We load about 1,500 tons per barge.”

One of the three barges was taking 400 sandbags down river for a project. Each bag weighed 3,500 pounds.

The other two barges were loaded with soybeans from Gage’s Fertilizer & Grain. They are a second-generation, family-owned company located in Northwest Missouri.

“The river is a good asset to merchandise grain,” Brad Gage said. “It opens us up to a lot of new markets.”

The soybeans will make their way down to the port in New Orleans before likely being shipped out internationally through the Gulf of Mexico.

Barge traffic has been slow to take off this year, but the Port Authority used the downtime to double its facility size. It can now hold up to 10,000 tons of dry storage.

Brad Lau, executive director of the Port Authority and vice president of economic development for the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce, confirmed this will be the first grain ever shipped from the port.

“The significance of this is that hopefully, as the port and Transport 360 grow, you’ll have fertilizer coming in and more product going out,” Lau said.

Ryan Hennessy can be reached

at ryan.hennessy@newspressnow.com.

Follow him on twitter: @NPNowHennessy.