Moving Grain: DOT Proposes Funding To Support Transportation Infrastructure

    Photo: Iowa Farm Bureau

    DOT Proposes “Rebuilding America” Funding To Support Transportation Infrastructure

    Under its Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant program, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) recently proposed awarding $905.25 million to 24 projects—including projects relevant to grain shippers—in 18 States.

    For example, the city of Dubuque, IA, would receive $5 million to increase capacity and improve transloading among barge, rail, and truck for fertilizer, grain, and other bulk products at the Port of Dubuque. According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Waterborne Commerce Statistics, the Port of Dubuque handled an annual average of 873,080 tons of grain by barge between 2015 and 2019.

    In addition, North Dakota’s Department of Transportation would receive $16.75 million to construct passing lanes along approximately 165 miles of two-lane US-52 between Carrington, ND, and slightly north of Kenmare, ND. This highway segment is part of the Minot, ND, to Chicago, IL, corridor that a December 2020 USDA report flagged as having long and unreliable travel times.

    The corridor is key to farm-to-elevator soybean shipments and eastward wheat movements to Minneapolis and Chicago. Congress has 60 days to review DOT’s proposed project recipients, after which DOT can begin obligating funding.

    USDA/AMS Upgrades Its Agricultural Transportation Open Data Visualization Platform

    On July 13, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) upgraded its Agricultural Transportation Open Data Platform, marking the second major expansion to the platform launched in June 2019. The expansion features new datasets and dashboards on the four modes—rail, truck, barge, and ocean vessel—used to transport agricultural products.

    Grain News on AgFax

    New and upgraded products on the updated platform include a Grain Transportation Cost Indicators and Global Competitiveness Dashboard with data on Brazil, Mexico, and Japan; an interactive report (and datasets) on the Importance of Highways to U.S. Agriculture; an Agricultural Rail Service Metrics Dashboard; an upgraded Port Profiles Dashboard with additional, more granular data; an upgraded Barge Dashboard, including additional rivers and locks; new Biofuels Dashboard, including new biodiesel datasets; new Grain Trucking Indicators Dashboard; and a web version of the 2021 Agricultural Transportation Research Compendium, highlighting the main findings and methods from recent research between 2015 and 2021.

    Soybeans Imported by China—Forecast at Record High—Suggest Possible Shift in U.S. Transportation Demand

    On June 30, USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) published its latest Chinese soybean import estimate for marketing year (MY) 2021/22. FAS estimates China—the largest importer of U.S. soybeans—will import a record 102 million metric tons (mmt) of soybeans from around the globe, up from 100 mmt in MY 2020/21.

    FAS reports China’s declining planted acres and increased crush demand could support record Chinese imports. At the same time, USDA projects total U.S. soybean exports to decline by 5.3 mmt from MY 2020/21 to MY 2021/22. Amid these overall export declines, the projected increase in Chinese soybean demand could increase soybeans sent by rail to Pacific Northwest (PNW) ports and decrease soybeans sent by barge to the Gulf.

    PNW ports accounted for 42 percent of U.S. oceangoing soybean exports to China, whereas PNW ports accounted for only 3 percent of soybean exports to non-China destinations, according to USDA grain inspections data from 2016 through 2020. From MY 2010/11, China has annually averaged 53 percent of the total U.S. annual soybean export volume.

    Snapshots by Sector

    Export Sales

    For the week ending July 1, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 19.6 mmt. This was 3 percent lower than last week and 7 percent lower than the same time last year.

    Net corn export sales were 0.173 mmt, up significantly from the past week. Net soybean export sales were 0.064 mmt, down 31 percent from the previous week. Net weekly wheat export sales for MY 2021/22, which began June 1, were 0.291 mmt.


    U.S. Class I railroads originated 19,863 grain carloads during the week ending July 3. This was a 10-percent decrease from the previous week, 4 percent less than last year, and 12 percent less than the 3-year average.

    Average July shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers (per car) were $197 below tariff for the week ending July 8. This was $111 more than last week and $259 lower than this week last year. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers this week.


    For the week ending July 10, barged grain movements totaled 698,380 tons. This was 10 percent less than the previous week and 6 percent higher than the same period last year.

    For the week ending July 10, 473 grain barges moved down river—38 fewer barges than the previous week. There were 533 grain barges unloaded in New Orleans, 5 percent fewer than the previous week.


    For the week ending July 8, 23 oceangoing grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf—23 percent fewer than the same period last year. Within the next 10 days (starting July 9), 38 vessels were expected to be loaded—3 percent more than the same period last year.

    As of July 8, the rate for shipping a metric ton (mt) of grain from the U.S. Gulf to Japan was $85.00. This was 4 percent more than the previous week. The rate from PNW to Japan was $46.25 per mt, 1 percent more than the previous week.

    Full report.

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