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USDA Releases Report on Importance of Highways to U.S. Agriculture

Date:
January 12, 2021
Topics:
Economic Development, Freight, News, News Homepage

In December 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service released the report The Importance of Highways to U.S. Agriculture. The report provides information to shape the transportation planning and project selection processes that build and maintain the highway infrastructure upon which the agriculture industry relies upon for safe and efficient transportation of goods. It demonstrates the interconnected nature of agricultural freight and highlights the need for cooperation across jurisdictions through: 1) A summary of the economic significance of highway infrastructure to the agriculture industry; 2) Identification of High-Volume Domestic Agriculture Highways based on 2018 commodity flows; 3) Modeled projections of future infrastructure conditions and performance; 4) Identification of efforts to improve agricultural freight movements.

According to USDA: Nearly all agricultural products travel by highway for at least a portion of their journey. In many cases, the country’s highways provide critical “first and last mile” transportation connections to higher-capacity transportation modes such as rail, barge, and ocean vessel, and for many products requiring long distance transportation.

This report’s analysis of agricultural commodity flows shows that 80% of domestic agricultural commodities travel on 17% of the U.S. highway mileage. These “High-Volume Domestic Agriculture Highways” (HDAH) are important to U.S. farmers, the agriculture industry, and downstream producers. This report utilizes a novel analysis technique to combine and geo-reference public and proprietary data sets to project future roadway conditions and model proposed projects to help anticipate benefits on 17 HDAH corridors. In addition, the study uses key stakeholder input from state Departments of Transportation to analyze and quantify selected performance challenges that domestic agricultural shippers encounter. These challenges include optimal commodity flows, safety, congestion, infrastructure condition, and roadway reliability. The study’s findings show that state-planned highway freight investments are estimated to produce $540 million per year in truck operating cost savings. If highway infrastructure investment is increased, at a level 2-4 times current state freight plan investment levels, the study finds these investments will still be highly cost-effective.