Moving Grain: $250Mln in Grant Funds to Rail Infrastructure

Photo by Ken Hammond, USDA

DOT Announces Recipients of Almost $250 Million in Rail Grants

Last week, the U.S. DOT announced the project recipients of $248.5 million in grant funds under the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) program. Authorized by Congress in 2015, the CRISI program aims to improve the safety, efficiency, and reliability of intercity passenger and freight rail systems.

The grants span 32 projects in 27 States, with about half of the funds going to rural areas. For example, one project will enable the South Kansas & Oklahoma Railroad (a short line railroad) to handle 286,000-pound cars on about 80 percent of its network.

This is the car size used to move a majority of rail-transported grain volumes.

Barge Tow Strikes Hale Boggs Bridge in Louisiana

A towboat pushing 29 grain barges struck the Hale Boggs Memorial Bridge, near the towns of Luling and Destrehan, LA, in the New Orleans area, early in the morning of Sunday, March 15. By the afternoon, the Coast Guard reported 26 barges had been recovered, two had sunk, and one had not been accounted for.

The Coast Guard closed the lower Mississippi between mile markers 115 and 122 in response. No injuries occurred and no pollution was released in the incident. The river reopened the following afternoon. A grain barge typically carries 1,500-1,750 tons of grain.

Grain Inspections Continue to Fall

For the week ending March 12, total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, and soybeans) for export from all major U.S. export regions reached 1.89 million metric tons (mmt).

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Total grain inspections were down 1 percent from the previous week (continuing a 2-week downward trend), down 9 percent from last year, and down 27 percent from the 3-year average. From the previous week, soybean inspections dropped 25 percent—mainly, because of the halt of soybean inspections destined to China—and wheat inspections decreased 2 percent.

However, corn inspections increased 18 percent as shipments to Asia rebounded. Also, from the previous week, grain inspections decreased 36 percent in the Pacific Northwest (PNW), but increased 26 percent in the Mississippi Gulf region.

Snapshots by Sector

Export Sales

For the week ending March 5 unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 22 million metric tons (mmt). This represented a 34-percent decrease in outstanding sales, compared to the same time last year.

Net corn export sales reached 1.471 mmt, up 91 percent from the past week. Net soybean export sales were 0.303 mmt, down 12 percent from the previous week. Net weekly wheat export sales reached 0.452 mmt, down 17 percent from the previous week.

Rail

U.S. Class I railroads originated 20,863 grain carloads during the week ending March 7. This was a 1-percent increase from the previous week, 9 percent more than last year, and 5 percent lower than the 3-year average.

Average March shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers (per car) were $131 below tariff for the week ending March 12. This was $169 less than last week and $1,748 lower than this week last year. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers this week.

Barge

For the week ending March 14, barge grain movements totaled 560,100. This was a 5-percent increase from the previous week and 15 percent less than the same period last year.

For the week ending March 14, 346 grain barges moved down river—15 more barges than the previous week. There were 562 grain barges unloaded in New Orleans, 7 percent more than the previous week.

Ocean

For the week ending March 12, 39 oceangoing grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf—30 percent more than the same period last year. Within the next 10 days (starting March 13), 42 vessels were expected to be loaded—33.3 percent fewer than the same period last year.

As of March 12, the rate for shipping a metric ton (mt) of grain from the U.S. Gulf to Japan was $43.25. This was 1 percent less than the previous week. The rate from PNW to Japan was $23.25 per mt, 2 percent less than the previous week.

Fuel

For the week ending March 16, the U.S. average diesel fuel price decreased 8.1 cents from the previous week to $2.733 per gallon, 33.7 cents below the same week last year.

Full report.




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