Moving Grain: USDA Releases Report on Highway Freight

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USDA Releases Report on Highway Freight

On December 17, USDA released a new study, The Importance of Highways to U.S Agriculture. The report gives stakeholders a strategic overview of the challenges and opportunities for moving freight across the Nation’s highways.

Major contributions include quantifying the economic significance of the roadways to agriculture, identifying key issues facing U.S. agricultural freight movements by truck, analyzing current and future freight flows, and identifying infrastructure investment gaps.

The report’s novel approach analyzes select performance challenges on 17 high-volume domestic agriculture highway (HDAH) corridors, which account for more than 80 percent of annual agricultural tonnage by truck. The HDAH-corridor challenges examined include optimal commodity flows, safety, quality infrastructure, and roadway reliability.

The report estimates current State-planned highway freight investments will save truck operators $540 million per year and produce total benefits worth more than double the investment costs. The report was produced under a cooperative agreement administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service with the Department of Transportation’s Volpe National Transportation Systems Center.

OOIDA Requests Adding “Feed” to FMCSA’s List of Qualifying Agricultural Commodities

On December 17, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association filed comments asking the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to add “feed ingredients” to its list of qualifying agricultural commodities. Proposing the change for FMCSA’s interim final rule on the definition, OOIDA maintains feed ingredients are integral to agricultural and livestock supply chains.

Furthermore, given the unpredictable nature of the feed production process, drivers often experience lengthy delays at processing and distribution facilities. To maximize efficiency and clarity for drivers, OOIDA argues feed ingredients should be covered in the agricultural commodities definition.

Grain Inspections Rise After 2-Week Decline

For the week ending December 17, total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, and soybeans) for export from all major U.S. export regions totaled 3.8 million metric tons (mmt). Total grain inspections were up 3 percent from the previous week, up 75 percent from last year, and up 49 percent from the 3-year average.

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Wheat inspections jumped 49 percent from the previous week as shipments destined primarily to Asia and Latin America increased. Also, from the previous week, soybean inspections increased 5 percent, but corn inspections decreased 17 percent as shipments to Latin America receded notably.

Pacific Northwest (PNW) grain inspections increased 1 percent from the previous week, but Mississippi Gulf inspections remained unchanged. During the last 4 weeks, grain inspections were 64 percent above the same time last year and 53 percent above the 3-year average.

Snapshots by Sector

Export Sales

For the week ending December 10, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 57.4 million metric tons (mmt). This was 1 percent lower than last week, but still represented a significant increase in outstanding sales from the same time last year.

Net corn export sales were 1.925 mmt, up 41 percent from the past week. Net soybean export sales were 0.922 mmt, up 62 percent from the previous week. Net wheat export sales were 0.540 mmt, down 12 percent from the previous week.


U.S. Class I railroads originated 28,390 grain carloads during the week ending December 12. This was a 2-percent increase from the previous week, 37 percent more than last year, and 27 percent more than the 3-year average.

Average January shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers (per car) were $440 above tariff for the week ending December 17. This was $99 more than last week and $808 more than this week last year. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers this week.


For the week ending December 19, barge grain movements totaled 996,816 tons. This was 11 percent less than the previous week and 109 percent more than the same period last year.

For the week ending December 19, 617 grain barges moved down river—86 barges fewer than the previous week. There were 1,092 grain barges unloaded in New Orleans, 7 percent higher than the previous week.


For the week ending December 17, 43 oceangoing grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf—65 percent more than the same period last year. Within the next 10 days (starting December 18), 52 vessels were expected to be loaded—30 percent more than the same period last year.

As of December 17, the rate for shipping a metric ton (mt) of grain from the U.S. Gulf to Japan was $42.00. This was 1 percent higher than the previous week. The rate from PNW to Japan was $23.75 per mt, 2 percent higher than the previous week.


For the week ending December 21, the U.S. average diesel fuel price increased 6 cents from the previous week to $2.619 per gallon, 42.2 cents below the same week last year.

Full report.

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