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Transportation

Despite the near land-locked condition of the primary U.S. hard red spring and durum wheat production area, there are still many alternatives for transporting wheat to points of export. The Northern Plains has an efficient highway and rail system as well as access to barge transportation.

Wheat grown in eastern Montana or western North Dakota is typically transported by rail or truck to ports in the Pacific Northwest where it is most often exported to customers in Asia. Wheat from eastern North Dakota, Minnesota and South Dakota frequently moves by rail or truck to Minneapolis or Duluth. Shipments to Duluth leave the United States through the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes during navigation season, which lasts from about April 1 through December 25. Minneapolis wheat is moved by rail or barge down the Mississippi River where it eventually reaches one of the ports in the Gulf of Mexico. Other times the grain is moved entirely by rail from country elevators to Gulf ports.

The Port of Duluth can accommodate ocean vessels up to 25,000 tons, while Pacific Northwest and Gulf ports can handle vessels of any size. Ocean freight rates at these ports are very reasonable compared to rates in other wheat exporting countries.

U.S. spring wheat and durum can be delivered by rail from the production area to any of the three major ports in about five days or less. There is virtually no degradation of the product during inland transport because the railroads, barge operators and trucking firms are responsible for the product while it is in their control. Since late shipments, grain loss and quality deterioration mean a loss of business and profits, U.S. transporters do everything they can to deliver shipments on time and in good condition.

Of the total amount of U.S. hard red spring wheat exported each year, approximately 55 percent leaves the country via Pacific Northwest ports, 30 percent from Gulf ports and 15 percent from the ports in the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway region.

In the case of durum, approximately 58 percent is exported via the Gulf, 38 percent from the Lakes, and 4 percent through the Pacific Northwest.


Links

Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute
N.D. Grain & Oilseed Transportation Statistics
Annual N.D. Elevator Marketing Report