Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, joined by officials from the Port of Greater Baton Rouge, La., and Louis Dreyfus Co. (LDC), has committed state of Louisiana capital outlay funds to complete a $20 million rail project that will enhance the transfer of corn, grain, soybeans and other commodities from Louisiana farmers to export vessels at the Port of Greater Baton Rouge in West Baton Rouge Parish.
Located in Port Allen, La., the Port of Greater Baton Rouge is overseeing nearly $60 million in rail infrastructure projects that will expand commodity shipments for current and future tenants. In 2018, Union Pacific Railroad completed a $12 million interchange track project expanding potential delivery from 45 railcars to as many as 110 railcars on one train.
The funding commitment by Edwards and the Louisiana Legislature will complete a second critical project bringing four rail tracks deeper into port property to serve the LDC Port Allen Elevator facility, one of the largest grain elevators on the Mississippi River. LDC’s site, with approximately 80 employees, ships agricultural commodities overseas at a volume of about 5-6 million metric tons per year. The new $20 million rail project will speed delivery, shipment and volume of the commodities, especially at times of high and low stages on the Mississippi River.
“We are pleased to commit the additional state funds needed to facilitate the shipment of critical commodities from Louisiana farmers and other sources through the Port of Greater Baton Rouge,” Edwards said. “These rail enhancements will mean better business and more profitable operations for our farmers, for the port and for major tenants like LDC. All of that boosts our capital region and state economy. Measured by tonnage, the Port of Greater Baton Rouge is one of three Louisiana ports among the top 10 in the U.S. Our investment in port and maritime infrastructure assures Louisiana of retaining and even expanding our leadership in international commerce.”
High river stages at the port interfere with barge offloading. They require companies like LDC to transfer commodities to the elevator facility with additional equipment at a slower pace. Having the option to deliver commodities via unit trains of 110 or more railcars will benefit agricultural producers and the customers who receive their goods.
“This is a tremendous economic development project that has been in the works for many years,” Louisiana Department of Agriculture & Forestry commissioner Dr. Mike Strain said. “The expanded rail capacity will increase the volume and transfer of goods at a rapid rate. It will also allow for uninterrupted delivery of grain, wood pellets and other commodities when the river levels are too high or too low for normal commerce by barge or ship.”
Operating as the major grain logistics tenant at the Port of Greater Baton Rouge since 2011, LDC has completed more than $200 million in capital spending improvements at its Port Allen Elevator facilities.
“We are pleased with the rail announcement and the state of Louisiana’s commitment to economic growth in the area,” said Adrian Isman, North America Region chief executive officer for LDC. “It is our plan to continue to invest and grow in the region, and the rail line will help support this objective.”
For the LDC rail access project, port officials are pursuing a project permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Pending approval of permits, construction is expected to begin later this year and will potentially be completed in 2020.
“This project is the culmination of a lot of hard work and strong financial investment from our tenants and private-sector stakeholders,” Port of Greater Baton Rouge executive director Jay Hardman said. “The funding commitment by Gov. Edwards and our legislature will enable us to complete a much-needed project that will serve the port and its tenants for years to come. Once completed, it will enable the port to remain a competitive player in the exportation of grains and oilseeds into the world marketplace.”
Third project slated
Beyond the rail access project, the Port of Greater Baton Rouge will begin a third major rail project in the near future. A rail logistics facility, known as a chambering yard, will be built along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway to expedite rail service to LDC’s grain elevators, expedite rail delivery of wood pellets to Drax Biomass, enhance rail operations throughout the port and make the port more attractive for prospective new tenants. LDC and Drax Biomass will pledge proceeds from expanded shipments as a match for state and port funding of the future chambering yard.
“West Baton Rouge Parish is fortunate to have a port of such caliber in our back yard -- and one that has continually proven to be an unwavering economic development partner,” West Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce executive director Jamie Hanks said. “This commendable announcement will continue to grow the Port of Greater Baton Rouge’s capabilities, benefitting our parish and region.”