The USDA last week released its year in review for agricultural shipping in the weekly grain transportation report, highlighting improvements in rail service and barge tonnage records.
At the beginning of the year, grain shippers placed most concern on rail's ability to move record harvests of fall 2013 under the harsh weather conditions of the winter. Worries expanded, the report noted, as crops again appeared to be large in fall 2014.
Service gradually improved, the report said, as the number of cars originated increased in November and December. U.S. Class I railroads originated 25,290 railcars of grain for the week ending Dec. 20,the third consecutive week of grain carloadings above 24,000 railcars, which has not occurred since October 2010, USDA said.
The current backlog of grain cars is 8,354 past due on BNSF as of Dec. 20 (14 average days late), 2,070 past due on Canadian Pacific as of Dec. 21 (27 average days late), and 6,064 past due on Union Pacific as of Dec. 21 (17 average days late).
Secondary railcar market bids, the report added, indicate shippers expect the railroad supply of grain cars will be able to meet shipper demand following this year’s harvest, an improvement over last year’s situation.
For barge shipping, USDA said the last four years have been marked by weather conditions that have hampered river navigation with periods of drought and flood.
Despite unusually large ice accumulations in early 2014, USDA said total grain barge tonnages in 2014 reached 35.1 million tons, the highest since 2006. This also is 46% higher than last year and 25% higher than the three-year average, the report said.
While barge rates reached unprecedented highs in September, they have declined considerably and now are ranging from 245 to 400% of tariff.
Follow the link to read the full USDA grain transportation review and view additional coverage from Penton Farm Progress below.
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