Grains & Oilseeds and Marine Transport Thereof: Definitions, Terms and Terminology

Updated: Oct 14, 2020

Terms, Terminology and Glossary for agricultural terms and marine inland barge transportation along the river-way system in the US.

1976 Benchmark Tariff Rates—The grain industry uses weekly barge rate quotes for southbound freight, based on the of the 1976 benchmark tariff rates per short ton at 7 locations on the inland waterway system. To calculate the barge rate per short ton, multiply the rate quote by the 1976 benchmark tariff rate per short ton for a point on the inland waterway system and divide by 100. Example: $3.99 (St. Louis 1976 benchmark tariff rate) times 200 percent (a sample rate quote), divided by 100 equals $7.98 per short ton. The 1976 benchmark tariff rates are from the Bulk Grain and Grain Products Freight Tariff No. 7, issued by the Waterways Freight Bureau (WFB) of the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). In 1976, the United States Department of Justice entered into an agreement with the ICC and made Tariff No. 7 no longer applicable, but the industry continues to use the 1976 tariff rates as a benchmark. The WFB no longer exists and the ICC has become the Surface Transportation Board of the United States Department of Transportation.

30-day to Arrive—Bids for grain for 30-day delivery to U.S. export ports in dollars per bushel. Also known as export bid.

AAR—Association of American Railroads

Ad libitum (feeding)—Unlimited access to feed or water.

AMS —Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)—administers programs that create domestic and international marketing opportunities for U.S. producers of food, fiber, and specialty crops. AMS also provides the agriculture industry with valuable services to ensure the quality and availability of wholesome food for consumers across the country and around the world.

Arkansas River Lock and Dam 1— Located in Tichnor, AR at mile 10 on the Arkansas River. This is a single chamber lock that is 600 ft. by 110 ft. in dimension (also called Norrell Lock).

As fed—As consumed by the animal.

Atlantic—A grain export region that includes export elevators in Brunswick, GA, Albany, NY, and Chesapeake, VA.

Auxiliary Lock—The smaller chamber of a double lock that transfer vessels from one water level to another water level. The advantage of this two-lock facility is that both chambers can be working at the same time, and more importantly while one chamber is closed for repairs, the other chamber can handle the traffic. See Main Chamber Lock.

Barge—A general name given to flat-bottomed, rigged or unrigged, craft of full body and heavy construction, specially adapted for the transportation of bulk freight such as grain, ethanol, fertilizer, coal, lumber, oil etc. A barge load of grain, as a unit of measure is 52,500 bushels, or 1,500 short tons, equivalent to 15 jumbo hopper railcars or 58 large grain hopper semi-trailers. A jumbo covered hopper barge is the type of barge most frequently used for moving grain on the rivers.

Barge Grain Movements and YTD—USDA's weekly recording of grain tonnage moving through the following strategically located locks: Arkansas Lock and Dam 1 (Norrell Lock), Ohio River Locks 52, Mississippi River Locks 15, 25, 26 (Melvin Price Locks) and 27. The year-to-date (YTD) figure is the accumulation of barge grain movements through the Mississippi River Lock 27, Arkansas Lock and Dam 1, and Ohio River Locks and Dam 52.

Barge Rate Index—A percent of tariff used for southbound barge freight, based on the 1976 benchmark tariff rates per short ton for seven locations on the inland waterway system.

Barge Rate Quote—A barge freight rate as a percent of the 1976 benchmark tariff rate offered to move grain from a specific origin to a specific destination. On the Mississippi River system, the destination is usually not specified and refers to the area between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, LA.

Barges Unloaded—The number of barges of grain unloaded in the area between Baton Rouge New Orleans, LA.

Basis—The difference between the current spot price (or cash price) of a commodity and the price of the nearest futures contract for the same or a related commodity. Basis is usually computed in relation to the futures contract next to expire.

Bid—Price offered by a buyer or seller for a commodity or service. Also referred to as an


Bushel—A unit of measure containing 2,150.42 cubic inches, 56 pounds of corn, or 60 pounds of wheat or soybeans.

Cairo-Memphis 1976 Benchmark Tariff Rate—The 1976 benchmark tariff rate is $3.14 per short ton and includes origins in Birds Point, Linda, and New Madrid, MO; Hickman, KY; and Cairo, IL.

Cash Price—The price in the marketplace for actual cash or spot commodities to be delivered via customary market channels.

Cereals—Defined as wheat, coarse grains and rice. Cereals are plants which yield edible grains and includes rice, wheat, corn, barley, and oats. Cereal grains are the fruit of plants belonging to the grass family (Gramineae). Cereal grains provide the world with majority of its food calories and about half of its protein.

Chain of Rocks Locks—Located in Granite City, IL at mile 186 on the Upper Mississippi River. This double lock includes a 1200 ft. by 110 ft. main lock chamber and 600 ft. by 110 ft. auxiliary lock (also called Mississippi River Locks 27).

Cincinnati 1976 Benchmark Tariff Rate—The 1976 benchmark rate is $4.69 per short ton and is for Cincinnati, OH.

Class I Railroad—A freight railroad with annual gross operating revenues of $319.3 million or more.

Commodities Futures—Contracted price to purchase/sell commodities at a given rate and to be delivered at some point in the future.

Co-products in ethanol dry-grind—The water and solids remaining after distillation of ethanol is called whole stillage, comprised primarily of water, fiber, protein and fat. This mixture is centrifuged to separate coarse solids from liquid. The coarse solids are also called wet cake and contain about 35 percent dry matter. Wet cake can be sold to local cattle feeders without drying, or dried to produce dried distiller’s grains (DDG). The liquid, now called as thin stillage, goes through an evaporator to remove additional moisture and the resulting co-product is called condensed distiller’s solubles which contains approximately 30 percent dry matter. Condensed distiller’s solubles can be sold locally to cattle feeders. Alternatively, the wet cake can be mixed with condensed distiller’s solubles and dried to produce distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS) which has 88 percent dry matter.

Container—An intermodal uniform, sealed, reusable metal “box” (generally 40 feet in length, able to hold about 40,000 pounds) in which merchandise can be moved by either, rail, barge, truck or vessel. The use of containers (or containerization) in trade is generally thought to require less labor and reduce losses due to breakage, spoilage, and pilferage, compared to more traditional methods of shipment. Containers come in 53, 48, 45, 40 and 20 foot lengths, and are anywhere between 8, 8.5, 9 and 9.5 feet in height. Width is eight foot.

Container Load—A load sufficient in size to fill a container either by cubic measurement or by weight.

Containerizable Cargo—Cargo that will fit into a container and result in an economical shipment.

Containerization—Stowage of cargo in a container for transport in the various modes. See Container.

Contract Rate—Rate and services that are specified in a shipper’s contract. A service premium and penalty may be assessed for non--performance by either the shipper or carrier.

Corn—Corn varieties include: U.S. No. 1-5 and Sample Grade, Yellow, White, and Mixed

Corn as defined by USDA's Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration.

Corn #1—The highest grade of corn, distinguished by the highest minimum test weight, lowest moisture and foreign material, and the fewest damaged kernels. Marketed primarily as food.

Corn #2—Most frequently traded of all grades (about 60 percent of all corn sold), and the grade on which the traded price is based. It is used primarily for animal feed. Grades 3, 4, 5, and Sample are lower grades than #2. Sample Grade is the lowest grade available.

COT (Certificate of Transportation)—BNSF Railway’s program for offering guaranteed delivery of rail cars during specific periods.

Cover Crops—Grasses, legumes, and other forbs that are planted for erosion control, improving soil structure, moisture, and nutrient content, increasing beneficial soil biota, suppressing weeds, providing habitat for beneficial predatory insects, facilitating crop pollinators, providing wildlife habitat, and as forage for farm animals. Cover crops can provide energy savings both by adding nitrogen to the soil and making more soil nutrients available, thereby reducing the need to apply fertilizer.

Crop Year (CY)—Year in which a crop is harvested, as opposed to a marketing year, which refers to the 12-month period following harvest. See marketing year (MY).

Cross-border—Refers to land based movements of grain from the United States to Mexico or Canada.

Cumulative Exports (shipped)—Quantity of grain shipped as reported in the FAS Weekly Export Sales Report.

CWAD—Canada western amber durum wheat. See Wheat.

CWRS—Canada western red spring wheat. See Wheat.

Dried Distillers Grains with Solubles (DDGS)—In dry-grind ethanol production, it is Wet Distillers Grains (WDG) that has been dried with the concentrated thin stillage to 10–12% moisture. DDGS have an almost indefinite shelf life and may be shipped to any market regardless of its proximity to an ethanol plant. Drying is costly, as it requires further energy input. In the US, it is packaged and traded as a commodity product.

Deadweight Capacity—Capacity in metric tons is determined by deducting from total deadweight the weight of fuel, water, stores, dunnage, crew, passengers, and other items necessary for use on a voyage.

Deadweight Cargo—Cargo which measures one cubic meter or less per metric ton. Also known as weight cargo.

Double Lock—See Lock.

Dry Cargo—Cargo, packed or unpacked, carried in non-liquid bulk form which normally does not require temperature control.

Dry Bulk Container—A container constructed to carry grain, powder and other free-flowing solids in bulk.

DUR—Durum wheat

Durum (DUR)—A spring-seeded wheat that is very hard, a high-protein wheat used to make pasta products. See Wheat.

dwt (deadweight tons)—The carrying capacity of a ship in metric tons, including the weight of fuel and stores as well as the cargo. The cargo capacity of a ship is generally estimated as 95 percent of deadweight capacity for large tankers and 85 percent of deadweight capacity for dry cargo container ships.

East Gulf—A grain export region, which includes the export elevator in Mobile, AL.

EIA—Energy Information Administration

Elevator Bid—The inland bid for grain delivered to the grain elevator.

Export Bid— Bid for grain for 30-day delivery to a U.S. export port in dollars per bushel. Also known as 30-day to arrive.

Export Sales Report—A weekly FAS report that provides reported sales by private U.S. exporters for select agricultural commodities.

Exports—Goods produced in one country and sold and shipped to another country.

FAS—Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS)—A USDA agency that is responsible for collecting, analyzing, and disseminating information about global supply and demand, trade trends, and market opportunities. FAS links U.S. agriculture to the world to enhance export opportunities and global food security. In addition to its Washington, D.C. staff, FAS has a global network of 98 offices covering 177 countries with a four-fold agenda:

a) Trade Policy - FAS expands and maintains access to foreign markets for U.S. agricultural products by removing trade barriers and enforcing U.S. rights under existing trade agreements

b) Market Development and Export Assistance - FAS partners with 75 cooperator groups representing a cross-section of the U.S. food and agricultural industry and manages a toolkit of market development programs to help U.S. exporters develop and maintain markets for hundreds of products.

c) Data and Analysis - FAS’s network of global contacts and long-standing relationships with international groups contribute to the agency’s unique market intelligence capacity.

d) Food Security - FAS leads USDA’s efforts to help developing countries improve their agricultural systems and build their trade capacity.

FEU (40-foot-equivalent unit) —A 40-foot container.

FOB (Free On Board)—A term of sa