U.S. Grain Transportation: Inspections Highest Since February

    For the week ending October 2, total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, soybeans) from all major export regions reached 2.56 million metric tons (mmt), up 32 percent from the past week, 16 percent from last year, and 35 percent above the 3-year average.

    Grain inspections were also the highest since February 27.

    Inspections increased for each of the three major grains, with inspections of soybeans reaching 1mmt, the highest since March 6. Soybean inspections increased 39 percent from the past week and were destined primarily to Asia. China accounted for over 61 percent of total soybean shipments.

    Week-to-week grain inspections were up 32 percent in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) and up 39 percent in the Mississippi Gulf. During the week ending September 25, outstanding export sales (unshipped) were up for each of the major grains.

    Senators Request USDA Economic Analysis of Rail Service Problems

    On October 1, Senator Thune (SD), the ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, and Senator Klobuchar (MN) sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Vilsack requesting USDA perform a detailed economic analysis of the ongoing transportation challenges facing producers and agricultural end users in the Midwest. They state previous studies of rail service challenges have not been performed at the regional or national level. The study is requested to take into account commodity prices, food prices, and changes in agricultural exports.

    Widespread Rains Cause Barge Rate Decrease

    As of October 7, widespread rains delayed harvest in the Midwest and caused barge rates for export grain to drop 10 to 19 percent at principle inland origins. Lower Illinois River barge rates dropped 16 percent from the previous week, but rates are still 57 percent above the 3-year average. Barge grain movements of the locking portion of the river system were up 41 percent compared to last week, while shipments on the Lower Mississippi River (no locks) continue to be significant.

    During September, barge rates on the Mississippi, Illinois and Ohio Rivers increased 47 percent compared to the 5-year average, with the largest increases at St. Louis, MO, and the lowest increases at Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN. Meanwhile, grain loading activity in the U.S. Gulf continued to pick up. As of the week ending October 2, 61 vessels are expected to be loaded within the next 10 days.

    Diesel Prices Have Fallen for 14 Consecutive Weeks

    Diesel fuel prices continue to fall in response to a fall in crude oil prices and increased output at diesel refineries (see GTR, dated 9/25/14 ). Diesel fuel prices have fallen for 14 consecutive weeks since the end of June. Since June 30, the average diesel price has declined 19 cents to $3.73 per gallon, a 5-percent decrease. Th e last time the average diesel price was this low was July 16, 2012.

    US-Mexico Cross-Border Trucking Pilot Program Ending

    In October 2011, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) began the 3-year United States-Mexico cross-border long-haul trucking pilot program as part of its implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. This program was designed to test and demonstrate the ability of Mexico-based motor carriers to operate safely in the United States beyond the municipalities and commercial zones along the United States-Mexico border. The FMCSA Advisory Committee has held meetings that express a diversity of opinions regarding the pilot program.

    The next Advisory Committee meeting is scheduled for October 27-28. Past meeting agendas and notes are available at: .

    Snapshots by Sector

    • Rail U.S. railroads originated 17,093 carloads of grain during the week ending September 27, down 12 percent from last week, 2 percent from last year, and 8 percent from the 3-year average. During the week ending October 2, average October non-shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers per car were $2,625 above tariff, down $375 from last week and $2,200 higher than last year. Average shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers per car were $4,000 above tariff, down $625 from last week and $2,988 higher than last year.
    • Barge During the week ending October 4 barge grain movements totaled 510,450 tons–41 percent higher than the previous week and 38 percent higher than the same period last year. During the week ending October 4, 321 grain barges moved down river , up 41.4 percent from last week; 803 grain barges were unloaded in New Orleans , up 11.2 percent from the previous week.
    • Ocean During the week ending October 3, the ocean freight rate for shipping bulk grain from the Gulf to Japan was $47 per mt, up 2 percent from the previous week. The cost of shipping from the PNW to Japan was $24.50 per mt, down 4 percent from the previous week.

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