CHICAGO (B)--Receipts for hard spring wheat surged March 16 in the Minneapolis cash market as farmers and elevator operators responded to upcoming increases in freight rates for wheat being transported from sections of North Dakota and Minnesota to grain storage facilities in Minneapolis and Duluth-Superior.

Effective April 1, rates on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail system will climb up to 12 cents per bushel for wheat being shipped from eastern North Dakota and Minnesota to facilities in Minneapolis, Duluth and Superior.

"On average, this should lead to a freight increase of around 10 cents per bushel," said a cash-connected source at the Minneapolis Grain Exchange.

On March 16, receipts were posted on 306 carlots totaling 1,009,800 bushels of hard spring wheat in Minneapolis, compared with 135 a year ago.

Observers noted the increase in rail rates corresponded with recent increases in the price of diesel fuel.

"Truckers are not going to be as aggressive to get this business as they were last fall," said one MGE floor trader, reflecting a common sentiment.

Jim Sabourin, spokesman for Burlington Northern Santa Fe, said rail rates were lowered in July 1999 and the upcoming increase brought prices back into line where they were before that decrease.

"The vast majority of shippers will not be paying any more than they did a year ago," Sabourin said.

He also said freight rates for wheat were being lowered from areas of Montana and western North Dakota into Duluth and Superior.

He pointed out that shippers could use certificates of transportation to lock in current prices up to five months in advance, adding that BNSF had record sales of these certificates Wednesday.

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