Transportation of U.S. Grains: A Modal Share Analysis

Grains produced in the United States move to domestic and foreign markets through a well-developed transportation system. Barge, rail, and truck transportation facilitate a highly competitive market that bridges the gap between U.S. grain producers and domestic and foreign consumers and often compete head-to-head to supply transportation for grains. These graphs examine trends regarding transportation used to move grains grown for the food and feed industry. The analysis behind this page comes from the Transportation of U.S. Grains: A Modal Share Analysis. For the latest report, click here.
This analysis of the transportation of the final movement of grain, by mode, provides information about changes in market share among the modes. Over several years, such work helps identify critical trends affecting the transportation of grain. It also provides a framework to assess public policies that influence the development and success of the Nation’s transportation infrastructure. Public policies that promote an efficient grain transportation system also promote strong U.S. agricultural and rural economies. 
Despite a high degree of competition in some markets, these modes also complement each other. Before a bushel of grain reaches its final destination, it has often been transported by two or more modes. This balance between competition and integration provides grain shippers with a highly efficient, low-cost system of transportation. The competitiveness of U.S. grains in the world market and the financial well-being of U.S. grain producers depends upon this competitive balance. A highly competitive and efficient transportation system results in lower shipping costs, smaller marketing margins for middlemen, and more competitive export prices. Such efficiencies also result in lower food costs for U.S. consumers and higher market prices for U.S. producers.