Moving Grain: New Facility Expects to Revive Barge Traffic on Northern Missouri River

    New River Facility Expects to Revive Barge Traffic on the Northern Missouri River

    Construction has begun on a new barge loading and unloading facility construction on the Missouri River at Mile 680.5 near Blencoe, IA. Expected to handle its first grain barge shipment by the end of 2020, the facility should bring barge traffic back to the Northern Missouri River, up to 760 river miles from St. Louis.

    Currently, more than 90 percent of the barge movements along the River are for sand, gravel, stone, rock, limestone, soil, and dredged material. The new farmer-owned facility plans to add more agricultural movements on the river, particularly for soybeans and corn. The facility could potentially shift some high-volume freight from roads to inland waterways in western Iowa.

    The last time barges could regularly travel this far north on the Missouri River was in the early 2000s.

    FMC Extends Flexibility for Filing Service Contracts

    The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) extended its order allowing service contracts to be filed up to 30 days after they take effect. Initially set to expire on December 31, the order will now remain in effect through June 1, 2021. The order is intended to provide relief to shippers, ocean container carriers, and freight forwarders and consolidators affected by COVID-19.

    The extension will provide flexibility to the ocean container shipping industry during the spring contract negotiation period.

    DOT’s Highway Trust Fund Extended for 1 Year

    On October 1, President Trump signed a continuing resolution to extend Federal surface transportation programs for 1 year. The extension includes the $13.6 billion for the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), which finances most Federal highway spending and is administered by the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Highway Administration.

    The extension is part of a larger package that will fund the entire Federal Government through December 11. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) along with 80 other organizations had called for the 1-year extension. The stop-gap measure was essential because the previous law—known as the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act—expired on September 30.

    DOT Awards $320.6 Million To Fund Railroad Projects

    The Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) awarded $320.6 million to 50 projects in 29 States to improve the safety, efficiency, and reliability of intercity passenger and freight rail systems. The grants are part of the 5-year Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) program, authorized by the 2015 FAST Act.

    At least 25 percent of the CRISI program funds must finance rural projects. In fiscal year 2020, over 60 percent of CRISI-funded projects were rural, and 32 of the 50 grant awards were in areas seeking private investment to revitalize economically distressed communities.

    Snapshots by Sector

    Export Sales

    For the week ending September 24, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 60.5 million metric tons (mmt). This represented a significant increase in outstanding sales from the same time last year.

    Net corn export sales were 2.0 mmt, down 5 percent from the past week. Net soybean export sales were 2.6 mmt, down 19 percent from the previous week. Net weekly wheat export sales were 0.506 mmt, up 44 percent from the previous week.


    U.S. Class I railroads originated 24,995 grain carloads during the week ending September 26. This was a 13-percent increase from the previous week, 39 percent more than last year, and 26 percent more than the 3-year average.

    Average October shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers (per car) were $981 above tariff for the week ending October 1. This was $548 less than last week and $919 more than this week last year. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers this week.


    For the week ending October 3, barge grain movements totaled 812,700 tons. This was 59 percent more than the previous week and 60 percent more than the same period last year.

    For the week ending October 3, 514 grain barges moved down river—202 barges more than the previous week. There were 913 grain barges unloaded in New Orleans, 28 percent more than the previous week.


    For the week ending October 1, 43 oceangoing grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf—23 percent more than the same period last year. Within the next 10 days (starting October 2), 55 vessels were expected to be loaded—22 percent more than the same period last year.

    As of October 1, the rate for shipping a metric ton (mt) of grain from the U.S. Gulf to Japan was $43.25. This was unchanged from the previous week. The rate from the Pacific Northwest to Japan was $23.75 per mt, unchanged from the previous week.


    For the week ending October 5, the U.S. average diesel fuel price decreased 0.7 cent from the previous week to $2.387 per gallon, 66 cents below the same week last year.

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