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“The Importance of Highways to U.S. Agriculture,” a Report from USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service

A news release last month from the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announced the release of a report, “prepared in close partnership with the Department of Transportation,” titled: “The Importance of Highways to U.S. Agriculture.”

The news release indicated that, “‘Agricultural freight movement is essential for moving goods from the farm to the consumer’s table. Efficient transportation helps keep food prices low for consumers and enables the U.S. agricultural industry to compete in a global marketplace,’ said USDA Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach.”

An executive summary of the full report stated that, “Almost every agricultural freight trip includes at least one movement by truck in the full journey from farm to final destination.”

Executive Summary- The Importance of Highways to U.S. Agriculture. USDA- Agricultural Marketing Service (December 17, 2020).

Low transportation costs is one way that the U.S. agriculture industry has remained competitive with low-wage international competitors who have lower costs of production,” the summary noted.

Executive Summary- The Importance of Highways to U.S. Agriculture. USDA- Agricultural Marketing Service (December 17, 2020).

However, the summary added that, “Low transportation costs help U.S. agriculture remain competitive on the global market, but others are catching up.”

“The example of U.S. and Brazil soybean transportation costs shows that as Brazil’s transportation costs have decreased, the United States’ cost advantage has eroded significantly.”  Executive Summary- The Importance of Highways to U.S. Agriculture. USDA- Agricultural Marketing Service (December 17, 2020).

More narrowly, the summary explained that, “This report identifies High-Volume Domestic Agriculture Highways (HDAH), based on a modeled sample of detailed 2018 agricultural commodity movements. These highways are among the most important to the movement of domestic agricultural commodities.”

Executive Summary- The Importance of Highways to U.S. Agriculture. USDA- Agricultural Marketing Service (December 17, 2020).

The figure below, which is juxtaposed with six major categories of agricultural production (grains, fruits and vegetables, milk and dairy products, meat, livestock, and poultry), “shows that HDAH connect areas where key agricultural products are produced in high volumes, based on 2017 production.”

Executive Summary- The Importance of Highways to U.S. Agriculture. USDA- Agricultural Marketing Service (December 17, 2020).

In conclusion, the AMS summary pointed out that, “Agricultural highway freight is a complex system. In order to maintain or improve the system, many different types of stakeholders must work together, including State DOTs, Federal agencies, agriculture producers and shippers, and freight carriers.

“This report synthesizes research, analysis, and stakeholder input to identify 10 challenges and opportunities, and suggests potential strategies to address them.”

Executive Summary- The Importance of Highways to U.S. Agriculture. USDA- Agricultural Marketing Service (December 17, 2020).

“As the U.S. population continues to grow and our economy continues to evolve, freight volumes are forecast to grow by nearly 25% over 20 years. Continued investment in highways that support the movement of agricultural freight during this period of growth will be critical to the health and competitiveness of U.S. agriculture.”

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Keith Good

Keith Good is the social media manager for the farmdoc project at the University of Illinois. He has previously worked for the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, and compiled the daily FarmPolicy.com News Summary from 2003-2015. He is a graduate of Purdue University (M.S.- Agricultural Economics), and Southern Illinois University School of Law.

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