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Port’s grain shipments slow as harvest grows

Eric Anderson | Times Union

ALBANY — Grain shipments to Cargill’s massive elevator at the Port of Albany are facing delays as rail congestion grows in the upper Midwest.

Grain trains “are getting through but they’re delayed,” said Richard Hendrick, general manager of the port. Hendrick said he will meet next month with two managers from Cargill, and that the delays likely will be discussed.

Cargill officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Congestion is growing as rail shipments of Bakken crude oil from North Dakota increase. The U.S. Surface Transportation Board will hold a public hearing Sept. 4 in Fargo, N.D., to hear from farmers and shippers. It also has directed representatives from Canadian Pacific Railway and BNSF Railway Co. to appear at the hearing.

In a typical year, Cargill will export as much as a quarter-million tons of grain from its Albany facility, Hendrick said. A similar amount will be processed into flour at the Ardent Mills complex at the port, and then shipped by truck to wholesale customers throughout the region.

Related: Crop shipments still stranded in North Dakota as oil-by-rail dominates

Hendrick said the number of grain ships is up over last year, although he was traveling and wasn’t able to provide figures. He said employment at the Cargill facility is “in the hundreds.”

Most grain shipments arrive via CSX, Hendrick added.

“We are adequately equipped to handle the forecasted levels of business into these Albany area facilities,” CSX spokesman Gary Sease said Tuesday. “As part of our focus to improve service after last winter, and with this year’s significant carload volumes generated across many markets, we have accelerated programs to acquire more locomotives, hire more train crews and open up more track and terminal capacity.”

Many of the oil trains that have been blamed for the delays originating in the upper Midwest also are destined for the Port of Albany, which has become a major transshipment point for the shale crude from North Dakota.


eanderson@timesunion.com, 518-454-5323