Moving Grains: Upper Mississippi River Navigation Season Ends

    The Port of Rosedale - Rosedale, Mississippi - Mississippi River ©Debra L Ferguson Stock Photography

    Upper Mississippi River 2021 Navigation Season Comes to an End

    On November 23, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), St. Paul District, locked the last tow to depart St. Paul, MN, marking the end of the 2021 navigation season on the Upper Mississippi River. Historically, USACE recognizes the date of the last tow departing St. Paul (heading south of Lock and Dam 2 near Hastings, MN) as the unofficial end of the Upper Mississippi River’s navigation season.

    Between 2015 and 2019, via the Mississippi River, barges moved about 13 percent of all U.S. bulk grain and 47 percent of grain destined to export markets. For the week ending on November 27, 2021, the Mississippi River locking system moved 33 million tons of U.S. bulk grain to the Gulf for export markets, 4 percent less than last year and 3 percent less than the 5-year average.

    STB Sets Procedural Schedule for CP-KCS Merger

    On November 23, the Surface Transportation Board (STB) accepted Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) and Kansas City Southern Railway’s (KCS) merger application for consideration and set the procedural schedule. Notices of intent to participate in this proceeding are due by December 13, 2021.

    Comments from interested parties are due February 28, 2022, and reply comments, by April 22, 2022. If approved, the new railroad would be called Canadian Pacific Kansas City (CPKC) and would offer the only single-line service connecting Canada to Mexico.

    North Carolina Inland Port Facility May Help Ease Congestion at Port of Savannah

    On November 18, the new Carolina Connector (CCX) intermodal transportation facility opened near Rocky Mount, NC. The 330-acre site allows trucks to bring cargo containers to a rail yard, where they are transferred to trains for transport. The facility is designed to move about 10,000 containers per month and provide regional industries with efficient access to rail.

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    CCX is expected to help ease current congestion at the Port of Savannah—one of the Nation’s busiest container ports. In 2019, the Port of Savannah was the top port in the Nation for containerized waterborne agricultural exports (when forestry products are included). Animal feed—mostly, distillers’ dried grains with solubles (DDGS)—was also one of the Port’s top agricultural exports.

    Contributing $40 million to the project, CSX Transportation built the facility and will operate it. The North Carolina Department of Transportation invested $118 million for site development and road construction.

    FMCSA Grants Another HOS Waiver for Livestock Feed Haulers in North Dakota

    On November 24, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) granted another extension to the hours of service (HOS) waiver for drivers of commercial vehicles transporting water and livestock feed in North Dakota.

    The waiver is intended to assist the State’s livestock producers affected by continuing drought conditions. Originally issued on September 22, the extended waiver will remain in effect through December 24 or until the end of the emergency, whichever is earlier.

    Snapshots by Sector

    Export Sales

    For the week ending November 18, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans for marketing year 2021/22 totaled 47.8 million metric tons (mmt), down 19 percent from same time last year and unchanged from the previous week.

    Net corn export sales were 1.429 mmt, up 58 percent from the previous week. Net soybean export sales were 1.565 mmt, up 13 percent from the previous week. Net weekly wheat export sales were 0.568 mmt, up 42 percent from the previous week.


    U.S. Class I railroads originated 24,494 grain carloads during the week ending November 20. This was a 3-percent decrease from the previous week, 3 percent fewer than last year, and 3 percent more than the 3-year average.

    Average December shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers (per car) were $508 above tariff for the week ending November 25. This was $3 less than last week and $453 more than this week last year. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers this week.


    For the week ending November 27, barged grain movements totaled 684,300 tons. This was 16 percent fewer than the previous week and 48 percent fewer than the same period last year.

    For the week ending November 27, 425 grain barges moved down river—72 fewer barges than the previous week. There were 908 grain barges unloaded in the New Orleans region, 2 percent more than last week.


    For the week ending November 25, 21 oceangoing grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf—down 46 percent from the same period last year. Within the next 10 days (starting November 26), 29 vessels were expected to be loaded—53 percent fewer than the same period last year.


    For the week ending November 29, the U.S. average diesel fuel price decreased by 0.4 cents from the previous week to $3.72 per gallon, $1.22 above the same week last year. At $3.60 per gallon, the average Midwest diesel price has declined for 4 consecutive weeks and is at its lowest level since October 11, 2021.

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