Soybeans May the Next Big Thing for Railroads

Coal traffic took a somewhat unexpected upward turn in the past year for U.S. railroads.

The next big thing to drive up carload traffic might be soybeans, which is a base ingredient used for animal feed and some food products.

An analysis published on the website of Trains magazine noted that soybean production in South America has dropped due to dry weather and this might open a market for U.S. soybean sellers.

The analysis said U.S. farmers might increase their planting of soybeans to cash in on the opportunity.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that U.S. soybean prices have risen 14 percent compared with a year ago to $15.70 per bushel, the second consecutive year of soybean price growth.

The Association of American Railroads said soybean traffic last year helped push grain traffic volume to its highest levels since 2008.

Most likely to benefit from the trend would be railroads in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Indiana, and Nebraska, which account for half of U.S. soybean production.

Yet the Trains analysis said that in a best case scenario this growth is only likely to result in a modest increase in grain carloads this year.

The Trains article can be read at

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