The Agriculture Transportation Coalition (AgTC) reports that the railroads now have plans to spend millions of dollars to expand rail and port capacity to handle agricultural exports in addition to their existing capacity to handle increasing Asia-sourced intermodal import traffic.

In their most recent newsletter, AgTC officials reported the following developments: 1) Union Pacific (UP) railroad announced a major transload facility in Yermo, about 100 miles outside of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach that is designed to haul dried distillers grains and eventually other products in large volume from the Midwest, then transload into empty ocean containers at Yermo, to be brought to the ports; 2) Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) and UP will be investing in a facility at the Hanjin terminal in Long Beach, which apparently has room for on-dock rail transload capacity; 3) Shafter, Calif., which for years has been discussed as a place to consolidate and aggregate import and export shipments, will have additional transload capacity due to plans by UP and BNSF; and 4) BNSF may be building a large transload facility in Amarillo, Texas, which could handle a number of cargos, including grains, cotton, etc.

The AgTC officials say that while these plans are unconfirmed, just the fact that there is talk reflects what that organization has been saying for some time: “with imports being largely steady, and demand for U.S. agriculture and forest product exports growing, capacity will have to be built to handle the exports. The railroads are doing it and making major commitments; are the ocean carriers ready to ‘change directions’?”