Moving Grain: Ag Industry Urges DOT To Protect U.S. Exporters

    Port of New Orleans - Mississippi River. ©Debra L Ferguson Stock Photography

    Agriculture Industry Urges DOT To Protect U.S. Exporters

    On April 27, 2021, 300 agriculture and forest product companies sent a letter to the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Secretary urging DOT to help protect their export businesses by intervening with vessel-operating common carriers (VOCCs).

    Exporters report that, over the last year, global ocean carriers often return containers empty overseas to be loaded and shipped again, rather than loading the containers with U.S. exports.

    In their letter to DOT, the companies note VOCCs return the containers empty because high import freight rates—combined with congestion and delay at U.S. ports—make it profitable to do so. The letter urges DOT to assist the Federal Maritime Commission in expediting its enforcement options.

    Railroads and Agricultural Shippers Collaborate to Improve Food Safety in Covered Hopper Cars

    The Association of American Railroads (AAR), a coalition of agricultural shippers, and Railinc (a rail technology developer) are collaborating to improve tracking of recent commodities carried in covered hopper rail cars.

    Grain News on AgFax

    Via an online portal with a secure and searchable interface, agricultural shippers will soon be able to identify the contents of the last three loads hauled in a particular rail car. Expected to launch later this year, the portal will provide shippers with better information to help prevent potential cross-contact with food allergens.

    The portal will also facilitate compliance with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s food sanitary transportation rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act.

    Illinois DOT Issues $7 Million for Improving Roads

    The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) awarded $7 million in grants for 21 projects through IDOT’s Truck Access Route Program. The program helps counties, municipalities, and towns upgrade roads to make them designated truck routes accommodating 80,000-pound trucks.

    Up to $900,000 may be awarded to projects that improve connections with other designated truck routes and with freight-traffic-generating businesses. In total, these projects cost $36 million and are expected to manage truck traffic, create jobs, and boost economic activity in Illinois.

    Snapshots by Sector

    Export Sales

    For the week ending April 22, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 35.2 million metric tons (mmt). This was 5-percent lower than last week, but 50 percent higher than the same time last year.

    Net corn export sales were 0.521 mmt, up 35 percent from the previous week. Net soybean export sales were 0.293 mmt, up significantly from the previous week. Net weekly wheat export sales were 0.224 mmt, down 7 percent from the previous week.


    U.S. Class I railroads originated 25,467 grain carloads during the week ending April 24. This was a 3-percent decrease from the previous week, 18 percent more than last year, and 5 percent more than the 3-year average.

    Average May shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers (per car) were $42 below tariff for the week ending April 29. This was $80 less than last week and $107 more than this week last year. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers this week.


    For the week ending May 1, barge grain movements totaled 671,536 tons. This was 30 percent less than the previous week and 1 percent more than the same period last year.

    For the week ending May 1, 438 grain barges moved down river—159 barges fewer than the previous week. There were 809 grain barges unloaded in New Orleans, 11 percent more than the previous week.


    For the week ending April 29, 35 oceangoing grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf—3 percent fewer than the same period last year. Within the next 10 days (starting April 30), 52 vessels were expected to be loaded—24 percent more than the same period last year.

    As of April 29, the rate for shipping a metric ton (mt) of grain from the U.S. Gulf to Japan was $63.00. This was 1 percent more than the previous week. The rate from the Pacific Northwest to Japan was $36.50 per mt, unchanged from the previous week.


    For the week ending May 3, the U.S. average diesel fuel price increased 1.8 cents from the previous week to $3.142 per gallon, 74.3 cents above the same week last year.

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