This year's shipping season on the Missouri River was the weakest in 55 years as low water levels forced companies to find other avenues for freight, The Kansas City Star reported in late December.

The Army Corps of Engineers estimates less than 200,000 tons of cargo went down the Missouri on barges, the lowest amount since 1951.

The report comes as no surprise to corn growers. In November, National Corn Growers Association President Ken McCauley said he was "frustrated and disappointed" with operation of the Missouri River in 2006.

McCauley, whose White Cloud, Kan., farm is fewer than five miles from the river, charged that the Corps failed to keep water levels high enough for barge traffic to safely navigate the river.

"The Corps had to deal with the severe drought in the Upper Missouri basin, but I believe the Corps actually wasted water by trying to manipulate the river," McCauley said. "With better management, more water would have been available when needed for navigation."

In November NCGA told the Corps: "Inadequate channel maintenance, inferior dredging contracts and ill-advised targets created yet another year of navigation unreliability."

The remarks were part of written comments on the proposed 2006-2007 Annual Operating Plan (AOP) prepared by the Corps. Furthermore, NCGA said, altering the management of the Missouri River not only affects farmers in downstream states, but also affects rural water systems upstream.

Bob Cox, port captain for the Jefferson City River Terminal, told The Star the Corps ended the 2006 shipping season 48 days early, missing the fall harvest.

"This has been discouraging," Cox said. "It has been several years since we had an eight-month season."

"We are frustrated and disappointed with the Corps' operation of the Missouri River for 2006," NCGA's comments read. "With continued unreliability comes further frustration." Click here to read NCGA's comments.