Moving Grain: Downbound, Unloaded Barges Increase

©Debra L Ferguson Stock Photography

Downbound and Unloaded Grain Barges Increase

For the week ending December 7,876 grain barges were unloaded in the New Orleans area, the highest since December 2018. This number represented a 30-percent increase from the previous week, as well as an 11-percent increase from both the same week last year and from the 3-year average for that week (796 grain barges unloaded).

For the week ending December 7, 713 downbound grain barges transited the locks on the Mississippi and its tributaries, the largest number since September 8, 2018.

Surface Transportation Board Proposes To Modify Waybill Sampling Procedure

On November 29, 2019, the Surface Transportation Board (STB) announced a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to modify the sampling procedure for its annual Carload Waybill Sample (CWS).

The CWS is used in a variety of ways that are relevant to agricultural shippers—namely, to support STB’s rate and service cases, as well as agricultural transportation research from many sources. The CWS is a stratified sample, where different categories of shipments are sampled at different rates to ensure coverage is representative of the true population.

In the NPRM, STB proposes to modify the current sampling rates to improve coverage further. Comments are due by January 28, 2020.

Grain Inspections Continue To Fall but Corn Increases

For the week ending December 5, total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, and soybeans) for export from all major U.S. export regions reached 2.14 million metric tons (mmt).

Total grain inspections were down 12 percent from the previous week, down 6 percent from last year, and down 28 percent from the 3-year average. From the previous week, inspections of wheat and soybeans decreased 6 percent and 19 percent, respectively, but corn inspections increased 9 percent.

Pacific Northwest (PNW) grain inspections were unchanged from the past week, but inspections of grain in the Mississippi Gulf decreased 24 percent mainly as a result of a 32-percent drop in soybean inspections.

Snapshots by Sector

Export Sales

For the week ending November 28, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 22.3 mmt. This represents a 22-percent decrease in outstanding sales, compared to the same time last year. Net corn export sales reached .546 mmt, down 32 percent from the past week. Net soybean export sales were .684 mmt, down 59 percent from the previous week. Net weekly wheat export sales reached .228 mmt, down 63 percent from the from the previous week.

Grain News on AgFax


U.S. Class I railroads originated 20,420 grain carloads during the week ending November 30. This was an 8-percent decrease from the previous week, 9 percent less than last year, and 16 percent lower than the 3-year average.

Average December shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers (per car) were $638 below tariff for the week ending December 5. This was $258 less than last week and $522 lower than this week last year. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers this week.


For the week ending December 7, barge grain movements totaled 1,103,696 tons. This was an 8-percent increase from the previous week and 41 percent more than the same period last year.


For the week ending December 5, 31 oceangoing grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf, unchanged from the same period last year. Within the next 10 days (starting December 6), 43 vessels were expected to be loaded—33 percent fewer than the same period last year.

As of December 5, the rate for shipping a metric ton (mt) of grain from the U.S. Gulf to Japan was $46.75. The rate from PNW to Japan was $25.25 per mt.


For the week ending December 9, the U.S. average diesel fuel price decreased 2.1 cents from the previous week to $3.049 per gallon, 11.2 cents below the same week last year.

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