Moving Grain: Funding Opportunity for Port Infrastructure

Barge and ship traffic transport export cargo on the Mississippi River in the Port of New Orleans. Photo: Bob Nichols, USDA

DOT Announces Funding Opportunity for Port Infrastructure Development Program (PIDP)

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is inviting competitive grant applications for projects that improve facilities related to operating coastal seaports, inland river ports, and Great Lakes ports. Of the $225 million total available, $200 million will be reserved for grants to coastal seaports and Great Lakes ports.

The minimum grant size is $1 million, with a Federal cost share not exceeding 80 percent. Evaluation criteria include a project’s effect on the movement of goods, effectiveness of its use of Federal funding, its net benefits, its readiness to start, and its use of domestically produced materials.

The deadline to submit an application for PIDP is 8 p.m. EDT May 18, 2020.

DHS Designates Port and Waterways Workers as Critical Employees

On March 19, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency issued a memorandum listing the types of workers who qualify as critical infrastructure personnel. These include port workers, mariners, equipment operators, and “employees who maintain marine vessels and the equipment and infrastructure that enables operations that encompass movement of cargo and passengers.”

This “critical” designation will allow these workers to continue working in their normal job locations during shelter-in-place or similar pandemic response orders.

Grain Inspections Down for Third Consecutive Week

For the week ending March 19, total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, and soybeans) for export from all major U.S. export regions reached 1.77 million metric tons (mmt). Continuing a 3-week downward trend, total grain inspections were down 11 percent from the previous week, down 23 percent from last year, and down 31 percent from the 3-year average.

Grain News on AgFax

Compared to the previous week, wheat inspections dropped 25 percent, and corn inspections decreased 17 percent. Soybean inspections, however, increased 15 percent from the previous week as shipments destined to China increased.

Total Pacific Northwest (PNW) grain inspections jumped 45 percent from week to week, but the increase could not offset the decreases in other export regions, such as the Mississippi Gulf and Interior, which decreased 19 percent and 43 percent, respectively.

Year to date grain inspections are currently down 9 percent from the same time last year.

Snapshots by Sector

Export Sales

For the week ending March 12, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 22 million metric tons (mmt). This represented a 33-percent decrease in outstanding sales, compared to the same time last year.

Net corn export sales reached 0.905 mmt, down 39 percent from the past week. Net soybean export sales were 0.632 mmt, up significantly from the previous week. Net weekly wheat export sales reached 0.338 mmt, down 25 percent from the previous week.


U.S. Class I railroads originated 19,911 grain carloads during the week ending March 14. This was a 5-percent decrease from the previous week, 7 percent more than last year, and 10 percent lower than the 3-year average.

Average April shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers (per car) were $75 above tariff for the week ending March 19. This was $190 more than last week and $546 lower than this week last year. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers this week.


For the week ending March 21, barge grain movements totaled 445,136. This was a 21-percent decrease from the previous week and 36 percent less than the same period last year.

For the week ending March 21, 273 grain barges moved down river—73 fewer barges than the previous week. There were 561 grain barges unloaded in New Orleans, unchanged from the previous week.


For the week ending March 19, 24 oceangoing grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf—29 percent fewer than the same period last year. Within the next 10 days (starting March 20), 38 vessels were expected to be loaded—35 percent fewer than the same period last year.

As of March 19, the rate for shipping a metric ton (mt) of grain from the U.S. Gulf to Japan was $41.25. This was 5 percent less than the previous week. The rate from PNW to Japan was $21.25 per mt, 9 percent less than the previous week.


For the week ending March 23, the U.S. average diesel fuel price decreased 7.4 cents from the previous week to $2.659 per gallon, 42.1 cents below the same week last year.

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