Moving Grain: USDA Projections Signal Lower Demand for Grain Transportation

    Mississippi River barges lines up at Port of Rosedale, Mississippi ©Debra L Ferguson

    Latest USDA Projections Signal Lower Demand for Grain Transportation in MY 2022/23

    On May 12, USDA released its May World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report, which contains the agency’s most recent projections—the first update since February—for the next marketing year (MY), 2022/23.

    If realized, projected MY 2022/23 soybean production would be a record 4.64 billion bushels. Even when combined with wheat production that is estimated to exceed MY 2021/22, total production of grain (corn, soybeans, and wheat) is projected to decrease 2 percent from MY 2021/22 to MY 2022/23.

    Domestic use and exports are projected to slip for corn and wheat, but to increase for soybeans. Domestic use and exports of the three crops combined are predicted to decrease 2 percent and 1 percent, respectively, in MY 2022/23 from 2021/22.

    Such declines would dampen the demand for grain transportation.

    FMC Proposes Requiring Free Access to Carriers’ Tariff Information

    A new notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) by the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) seeks public comment, on or before June 9, on whether carriers should be required to post their tariffs online and allow access to this information, free of charge.

    Grain News on AgFax

    Seven of the 10 leading ocean carriers serving the United States already provide this service. FMC believes requiring universal free tariff publication would benefit trade by giving shippers more pricing information to consider. In the same NPRM, FMC proposes changing its definition of co-loading to apply only to less-than-container loads.

    Furthermore, FMC proposes that documentation for full-container-load shipments be annotated with the names of all non-vessel operating common carriers (NVOCCs) associated with the container’s cargo.

    Three other proposed changes in the NPRM would allow NVOCCs to cross-reference certain aspects of other carriers’ terms in their tariffs; clarify the ability of NVOCCs to reflect increases in certain charges passed on by other entities without notice; and make other miscellaneous updates and clarifications to current FMC code.

    FMCSA Expands Emergency HOS Waiver to Cover Propane

    On May 13, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) added propane, which is used for grain drying, to its list of qualifying items in support of emergency relief efforts. First issued in March 2020 for the COVID-19 pandemic, FMCSA’s emergency declaration offers regulatory relief for truckers who provide direct assistance.

    This includes some relief from standard hours-of-service (HOS) regulations. Though modified several times, the emergency declaration, has remained in effect for more than 2 years. The most recent extension is set to expire on May 31 and covers feed, ethanol, and fuel.

    Snapshots by Sector

    Export Sales

    For the week ending May 05, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans for marketing year 2021/22 totaled 29.6 million metric tons (mmt), down 1 percent from the same time last year and down 6 percent from the previous week.

    Net corn export sales were 0.193 mmt, down 75 percent from the previous week. Net soybean export sales were 0.144 mmt, down 80 percent from the previous week. Net weekly wheat export sales were 0.014 mmt, down 88 percent from the previous week.


    U.S. Class I railroads originated 22,402 grain carloads during the week ending May 7. This was a 5-percent increase from the previous week, 11 percent fewer than last year, and 3 percent lower than the 3-year average.

    Average May shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers (per car) were $2,425 above tariff for the week ending May 12. This was $582 less than last week and $2,546 more than this week last year.


    For the week ending May 14, barged grain movements totaled 835,730 tons. This was 7 percent lower than the previous week and 4 percent lower than the same period last year.

    For the week ending May 14, 513 grain barges moved down river—36 fewer barges than the previous week. There were 683 grain barges unloaded in the New Orleans region, 15 percent more than last week.


    For the week ending May 12, 32 oceangoing grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf—6 percent fewer than the same period last year. Within the next 10 days (starting May 13), 50 vessels were expected to be loaded—9 percent fewer than the same period last year.

    As of May 12, the rate for shipping a metric ton (mt) of grain from the U.S. Gulf to Japan was $82.00. This was 3 percent more than the previous week. The rate from the Pacific Northwest to Japan was $46.50 per mt, 4 percent more than the previous week.


    For the week ending May 16, the U.S. average diesel fuel price decreased 1.0 cents from the previous week to $5.613 per gallon, 236.4 cents above the same week last year.

    Full report.

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