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Incentives to U.S. railroads could boost ag shipments, save millions for farmers

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• A big key to growing markets, both domestic and international, is being able to deliver our farm products in an efficient manner, and one way to do that is to boost federal investment tax credits and accelerated depreciation schedules for railroads, according to a new report done for the United Soybean Board.

The Urban Mobility Report by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute earlier this year noted that clogged roads cost the nation $121 billion in time and fuel in 2011. It is projected that in just the next seven years traffic congestion costs will increase by 65 percent, and hours of lost time by 55 percent if the status quo is maintained (and even status quo would not be a good bet given the fiscal hole the government has dug itself into).

A 2007 U.S. Department of Transportation study showed the breakdown of shipping the nation’s cereal grains and agricultural products at 49 percent for trucks, 23 percent for barges, and 30 percent for rail.

A significant influence on the use of trucks in recent years has been the hauling of corn to ethanol plants, the USB study points out. While corn for export is relying more heavily on rail, almost all the corn for ethanol is transported by trucks, now about 80 percent of domestic corn shipments.

Transportation issues for agriculture will be the focus of the first ever Agricultural Transportation Summit July 30-31 at Rosemont, Ill., bringing together leaders of agricultural producer organizations, agribusinesses, and government. It will be conducted jointly by the USDA, the Soy Transportation Coalition, and the National Grains and Feed Association (See conference info here: http://bit.ly/ZZTNVi).

hbrandon@farmpress.com

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