As millions of bushels of U.S. soybeans crisscross America's roads, rails and waterways on their way to export markets, a soy-checkoff-funded study says more would ship more cheaply and efficiently by rail - and fewer by trucks — if the U.S. railway system were up to the task.
"The U.S. soy industry needs a transportation system that runs smoothly in order to move our soybeans to markets, and railways are a major part of that," says Jared Hagert, a soybean farmer from Emerado, N.D., and coordinator of the United Soybean Board (USB) International Opportunities target area.
"A big key to growing markets, both domestic and international, is being able to deliver our soybeans in an efficient manner."
The study, titled "Maintaining a Track Record of Success," examines the U.S. railway system and its ability to handle future growth in agricultural production and exports.
This report suggests that if rail infrastructure investments are adequate to support growth, there will be a gradual shift from truck transportation to rail transportation each year, an action that could save fuel and money along the transportation chain.
According to the study, rail uses about one-third of the fuel per ton-mile compared with trucks and can reduce road congestion and the need for highway repairs.
Funded by the soy checkoff and coordinated by the Soy Transportation Coalition, this study also examined the private investment anticipated to be made by railroad companies and the shippers and receivers that use it.
In addition, the report looks at the soybean sector's challenges in becoming more efficient with its rail movements.
U.S. soybean exports are increasingly dependent on rail, as well as other pieces of the infrastructure for transport, between September and February.
Fluid rail capacity to handle the surge in volume during those months is critical to the soy industry continuing to maximize the farm value of soybeans.
Increasing private and public investment in soy transportation modes remains a priority of the soy checkoff.
For more from the Soybean Board, visit http://www.unitedsoybean.org/.