THE majority of agricultural commodities shipped through the port of Tacoma are used in Pacific Rim countries as livestock feed and for other food-production processes, according to Tacoma Transload. The company, which was launched last January to handle agricultural commodities shipped through Tacoma, recently delivered its 1,000th container. ''This trans-loading service has attracted new volumes of agricultural bulk commodities to Tacoma,'' said Tacoma Commission president Jack Fabulich. ''It is helping to provide a vital link between American farmers and international markets.'' Tacoma Transload ships everything from corn gluten meal to hay cubes and sugar beet pellets to Southeast Asian countries in 20 ft and 40 ft containers. Most of the trans-loaded agricultural products originate in the Unites States mid-west, although some goods such as hay cubes, peas, beans and buck wheat come from farmers as close as eastern Washington. Corn gluten meal, for example, is a mainstay feed product for the poultry industry in many Pacific Rim countries. Sugar beet pellets and hay cubes are used to feed cattle. Tacoma Transload's US$2 million facility, which lies within a mile of the port's shipping terminals, was built to handle incoming rail cars loaded with bulk products. The facility is built to straddle rail lines served by both Burlington Northern and Union Pacific. The rail cars are unloaded using a gravity-fed conveyor system that carries the product into one of four loading systems. Depending on the commodity, the product is then trans-loaded into bags or directly into containers. The facility, equipped with both an auger and a conveyor belt to complete the loading, is one few trans-load facilities on the west coast to offer both loading systems, according to facility manager Gary Hofmann. A full rail car can be unloaded in just over an hour. ''We have to be able to turn things around right away,'' said Mr Hofmann. ''We are very careful to schedule the containers to be here when the rail cars arrive.'' The company, which works primarily with Tacoma steamship lines, also provides the service of picking up empty containers from nearby steamship terminals and returning them full and ready for international shipment. About 90 per cent of the company's shipments move through the port of Tacoma. In a busy week, the company handles about 2,000 tonnes of bulk goods - or about 75 per cent of the facility's capacity. Mr Hofmann said the company, which now employs seven people, expects business to grow as new markets are opened in China for protein feeds like corn gluten meal and soy meal. This summer's floods in the mid-west were expected to cause prices for bulk agricultural goods to increase, but Mr Hofmann said he expected basic demand for bulk goods to remain strong. The trans-loading facility has boosted the port of Tacoma's volume of containerised agricultural goods. For the first quarter of the year, the shipping lines using Tacoma Transload saw a collective 46.8 per cent increase in containerised bulk commodities compared with the same period a year earlier. Those exports rose from 8,373 tonnes in the first quarter of 1992 to 12,289 tonnes in the first quarter of this year.