Port of Baltimore

Figure 1. Combines staged at the Port of Baltimore.

Updated: April 8, 2024
By Andrew Kness , Mark Townsend , and Dale Johnson

Implications Due To The Closure of The Port of Baltimore

The Port of Baltimore is the 11th largest port by tonnage and 9th largest by dollar value of cargo handled in the United States and plays a key role in agricultural commerce and trade. For 13 consecutive years, the port has been number one for handling cars and light trucks, as well as farm machinery as seen by rows of Case IH and New Holland combines in the picture to the right.

Other than farm equipment and sugar, the Port of Baltimore does not play a major role in imports or exports of agricultural commodities. Because of our robust livestock industry in the mid-Atlantic (particularly poultry), grains such as corn and soybeans grown here are generally utilized locally by the livestock industry, so only a minor proportion of these commodities are exported through the Port of Baltimore. However in recent years, there has been some increased exports of some grains, such as soybeans, out of Baltimore to new markets, which could be affected by the Port’s closure. There is also some concern over the import of organic grain for the organic broiler industry; companies such as Perdue and Mountaire receive imports of organic grain through the Port of Baltimore.

The Port also handles shipments of fertilizer; the most significant being UAN and urea. The Port imports about 10% of all UAN for the United States, as well as effectively all of the urea and UAN used locally, and about 50% of the potash used locally. Until the Port can receive ships, these nitrogen imports will have to be diverted to other ports in Virginia and Pennsylvania, presenting a logistical problem. In this case, the major bottleneck becomes hauling product back into the area from these distal locations, driving up freight costs and potentially causing a delay in receiving product. Farmers may expect as much as $0.15-$0.20 increase per pound of nitrogen due to these increased logistics costs.

Officials say it could take up to a month to get the debris cleared enough to re-open the Port of Baltimore. In the meantime, we can all be thankful for the Bay Pilots, crew, and emergency personnel whose swift actions leading up to the accident most definitely prevented an even larger catastrophe.

This article appears in April 2024, Volume 15, Issue 1 of the Agronomy News.

Agronomy News, April 2024, Vol. 15, Issue 1

Agronomy News is a statewide newsletter for farmers, consultants, researchers, and educators interested in grain and row crop forage production systems. This newsletter is published once a month during the growing season and will include topics pertinent to agronomic crop production. Subscribers will receive an email with the latest edition.