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Sept.19. 2016

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SURFACE & DOMESTIC TRANSPORTATION TRUCKING | RAIL | INTERMODAL | AIR & EXPEDITED | DISTRIBUTION 46 THE JOURNAL OF COMMERCE SEPTEMBER 19.2016 US EXPORTERS ARE bracing for what could be a historic harvest this year, providing western railroads with more intermodal cargo and container lines backhaul freight to Asia. Unlike in past years, however, the North American intermodal network is primed to accommodate that demand, and healthy competition from markets overseas should relieve pressure on inter- modal equipment demands. Exporters can expect equipment to be tight in the typical places, Kansas City and Minneapolis, and congestion to mount in the usual locales, the Pacifi c Northwest and Van- couver. Still, the 2016 harvest season should run smoother than in previous years, indus- try interests told The Journal of Commerce. "Everything's really pointing to a really strong, and very likely historic, harvest," said Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition. "Cer- tainly there's going to be a lot of volume that will have to be accommodated by our nation's transportation system. Fortunately, those various modes, at least rail and barge, have the capacity to accommodate it." Although less than 10 percent of US grain exports move via container vessel, grain shippers using intermodal rail gen- erally tend to see faster service than those using carload transport, and grain loads help carriers reduce empty backhauls to Asia. It looks to be a productive harvest season in North America for a number of crops, from soybeans and wheat to distillers dried grains, or DDGs, and pulses, or legume grain seeds. US soybean production is forecast to hit a record yield of 4 billion bushels this year, up 3 percent from the 2015 harvest, accord- ing to the US Department of Agriculture. Wheat production is forecast to hit 2.3 bil- lion bushels, up 13 percent year-over-year. Although Canadian soybean produc- tion is expected to hit 266 million bushels in 2016, down 6.5 percent from 2015, total Canadian wheat production is expected to reach 161 million bushels in 2016, up 10.5 percent, according to Statistics Canada, the country's national statistics agency. It looks as though 2016 will be the third consecutive bumper crop for grain. That could spark concern from some who remember 2013 and 2014, when many farm- ers reported delays of weeks — if not months — to get crops shipped via rail to seaports. Because of a shortage of rail equipment, farmers headed to the secondary markets, including non-railroad suppliers such as les- sors, to secure hopper cars, adding in some cases thousands of dollars per unit onto existing tariffs. Railroads say they're ready to handle the intermodal surge expected to come from a historic fall crop AGRICULTURAL WINDFALL

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