Moving Grain: Export Inspections Rise, Still Below Average

Photo: U.S. Grains Council

Grain Inspections Up; Wheat and Soybeans Higher

For the week ending January 9, total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, and soybeans) for export from all major U.S. export regions reached 2.1 million metric tons (mmt). Total grain inspections were up 6 percent from the previous week, down 22 percent from last year and 4 percent below the 3-year average.

Inspections of wheat jumped 30 percent from week to week, primarily because of increased shipments to Asia and Latin America. Soybean inspections increased 9 percent from the past week, but inspections of corn decreased 16 percent.

Pacific Northwest (PNW) grain inspections increased 6 percent from the previous week, and Mississippi Gulf inspections increased 16 percent.

TRB Held 99th Annual Meeting in Washington, DC

The Transportation Research Board (TRB) held its 99th annual meeting on January 12-16, 2020, in Washington, DC. Presenters discussed a variety of topics, such as precision scheduled railroading (e.g., what it is, how it works, and its impacts); automation at port terminals; effects of accidents on inland waterway traffic; supply chains for ethanol and logs, and much more. Key takeaways from the conference will be covered in next week’s feature article for the Grain Transportation Report.

Public Comments Sought on Draft of Lower Snake River Dams (LSRD) Stakeholder Engagement Report

The Lower Snake River Dams (LSRD) Stakeholder Engagement Report (online draft here) aims to represent all stakeholder perspectives on how removing the lower Snake River dams in southeast Washington will affect salmon, orcas, and agricultural and transportation interests.

The current draft notes that, if the LSRD are breached, the Snake River will not be deep enough to sustain barge traffic. This situation would increase shipping costs and negatively affect the barging of dryland wheat and the overall grain economy.

Written comments for this draft report will be accepted at public workshops and online until January 24, 2020.

Temporary Restraining Order on Enforcement of California Assembly Bill No. 5 on Truckers

On January 13, 2020, U.S. District Court Judge Roger T. Benitez extended a temporary restraining order, which prevents the enforcement of Assembly Bill 5 (AB-5). AB-5 prohibits companies from using independent contractors unless their work is “outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business.”

Trucking is an important mode in the movement of agricultural products, especially in California. According to U.S. Department of Transportation data, California truckers hauled nearly 49 million tons of agricultural products (SCTG03, which includes soybeans, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and other agricultural products) and over 4 million tons of cereal grain (SCTG02, which includes corn, wheat, and other small grains) within the State in 2018.

California also distributed almost 8 million tons of agricultural products and cereal grains to other States by truck in the same year.

Snapshots by Sector

Export Sales

For the week ending January 2, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 21.9 mmt. This represented a 29-percent decrease in outstanding sales, compared to the same time last year. Net corn export sales reached 0.162 mmt, down 70 percent from the past week. Net soybean export sales were 0.356 mmt, down 8 percent from the previous week. Net weekly wheat export sales reached 0.081 mmt, down 74 percent from the previous week.

Grain News on AgFax


U.S. Class I railroads originated 19,615 grain carloads during the week ending January 4. This is a 26-percent increase from the previous week, 4 percent less than last year, and 5 percent lower than the 3-year average.

Average January shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers (per car) were $506 below tariff for the week ending January 9. This is $90 less than last week and $198 lower than this week last year. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers this week.


For the week ending January 11, barge grain movements totaled 521,129 tons. This was a 1.4-percent decrease from the previous week and 7 percent less than the same period last year.

For the week ending January 11, 325 grain barges moved down river—28 fewer than the previous week. There were 807 grain barges unloaded in New Orleans, 17 percent more than the previous week.


For the week ending January 9, 34 oceangoing grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf—unchanged from the same period last year. Within the next 10 days (starting January 10), 46 vessels were expected to be loaded—25.8 percent fewer than the same period last year.

As of January 9, the rate for shipping a metric ton (mt) of grain from the U.S. Gulf to Japan was $45.00. This was 2 percent less than the previous week. The rate from PNW to Japan was $24.25 per mt, 3 percent less than the previous week.


For the week ending January 13, the U.S. average diesel fuel price decreased 1.5 cents from the previous week to $3.064 per gallon, 8.8 cents above the same week last year.

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