Among the biggest challenges to hit the nation’s wheat industry in recent years — global instability, drought and inflation — a diminished railroad sector has been one of the most costly. 

Twenty years ago, rail accounted for 61% of all wheat movement in the country, providing the most efficient form of transportation to the nation’s major ports in the northwest, the Gulf of Mexico and the U.S.-Mexico border. 

But rail’s share of wheat movement has fallen by around 16% with fewer trains in operation, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Transportation of U.S. Grains report

Since 2015, the nation’s railroad sector has lost one-fourth of its workforce, resulting in fewer trains and higher prices.

An example of the higher costs can be found in comparing the U.S. and Canadian wheat markets. Spring wheat prices in the United States were often more than double the cost to produce than in Canada last year and in early 2023, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture

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Ben Felder covers agribusiness and the meat industry in Oklahoma for Investigate Midwest. Felder previously worked for The Oklahoman as a political enterprise reporter blending narrative storytelling,...