Highways Prove Critical to American Agriculture in USDA Reports

Brian German Agri-Business, Industry

American agriculture relies heavily on the country’s highway system, according to information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). A recent report shows that the agricultural sector is the single largest user of freight services. The Importance of Highways to U.S. Agriculture report shows that 83 percent of all agricultural freight tonnage was transported through the U.S. highway system in 2018. The report was prepared through a partnership between USDA and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

American Agriculture

“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,” USDA Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach said in a news release.

The report was written by the DOT’s Volpe National Transportation Systems Center in cooperation with the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and its Transportation Services Division. Almost all agricultural products move through the highway system at some point. In 2018, highways accounted for 56 percent of agricultural freight ton-miles moved by truck. Highways are highlighted as essential connection points that link to other transportation modes such as railways and sea travel. A total of 80 percent of U.S. agricultural highway freight volume moves on 17 percent of highway mileage.

Altogether, a total of $3.1 trillion worth of agricultural freight moved across all modes of transportation in the U.S. in 2018. Total freight volumes are also projected to increase by 23 percent over the next two decades. Another 2019 report from USDA details the role that barge transportation in the movement of agricultural products. The Importance of Inland Waterways to U.S. Agriculture report shows that the competitiveness of American agriculture also relies considerably on inland waterways. “Together the two reports can be used to identify important infrastructure investments, drive updates to state freight plans and long-range transportation plans, inform policy discussions, and help identify priorities for future research,” said Ibach.

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West