The Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association held its annual meeting virtually Jan. 29. Board President Kent Winter gave an update along with KGSPA Executive Director Jesse McCurry, KGSPA Program Director Adam York and United Sorghum Checkoff CEO Tim Lust and Executive Vice President John Duff.

President Kent Winter in his opening remarks told the group that he can’t remember the basis being this wide between corn and sorghum bids.

“At the present time our local elevator is $1.25 advantage to grain sorghum over corn on the old crop bid,” he said. “On the new crop bid, which I'm keenly watching here lately, it’s $0.05 better for sorghum.”

Winter, who normally makes planting decisions this time of year, recently fielded a call from one of his landlords that surprised him.

“He let me know early on that he was not a fan of grain sorghum,” he said. “Two months ago my phone rang and it was this nice landlord gentlemen asking me, ‘Kent do you suppose maybe we can consider raising grain sorghum this next year?’”

Winter knows the value of producing grain sorghum and sees it in his future, as do many other producers. The buzzword recently with many crops is sustainability, and what it means to them.

“I'm still scratching my head over what it really means to me personally from my side of the fence,” Winter said. “All you folks that are on with us today that are fourth generation, fifth generation, sixth generation and maybe even more.—I think sustainability is right there—that speaks for folks being able to hang on and survive and still be doing what your ancestors were doing, maybe as many as 150 years ago.”

He recognizes that as farmers get in front of other audiences, sustainability means something different.

“I believe we're going to have to embrace this, and being sorghum farmers we really do have the opportunity to make lemonade out of lemons here, if it comes to that,” Winter said. “Sorghum checks all the boxes with sustainability, we’re the crop that moisture limiting conditions can squeeze the most bushels of grain out. We're also very efficient with the use of nitrogen to raise our crop.”

Sorghum often offers two crops—a grain crop and the remaining stalks—helpful to the cow-calf producer, in addition to habitat for wildlife, Winter said.

“There's very few other crops out there that provide the cover and the feed for wildlife to get through the winter,” he said. “And if the carbon market should happen to develop even further, sorghum has a very high ability to capture carbon out of the air.

Winter said he’s also keenly aware of how important it is to have good relationships with legislators and policy makers.

“We've got to have that in place to encourage safe and efficient food production while providing a strong safety net for us producers,” he said. “I think that can be called and considered our guiding light as we go forward here.”

McCurry gave a Kansas legislative update and said in Topeka there’s a number of changes to be aware of in the state. Sorghum research funding does remain in the budget.

There are also changes in the ways and means committee, as there is a new chairperson leading it, and that could have some effect on water regulations.

“So we're going to continue to work on the water plan and how that fits to sorghum,” McCurry said.

Later York outlined the newest additions to KGSPA, including media outreach efforts. The website, www.ksgrainsorghum.org, has put hundreds of users a month in touch with sought after information.

KGSPA is also working with the Kansas Grain Sorghum Commission on market update radio spots on KFRM AM radio every week. York said they’re part of the Kansas Farm Food Connection with the other commodities in the state providing education and content of where food comes from in Kansas.

Duff echoed Winter’s sentiment when he told attendees that, from a United Sorghum Checkoff Program perspective, it’s a “pretty cool time to be in this industry.”

“I think that we're seeing some historic things,” he said. “That it is not an understatement to say they're historic. They've really never happened before.”

Chinese exports—actual shipments to China—are at a level that hasn’t been seen since 2014-15. During that time 75% of the crop went to China alone, and made up 90% of that year’s exports, according to Duff.

“Overall I think (we could) see that scenario play out again this year,” Duff said. “And we're seeing it really for new crop, to an extent that we didn't see it back in 2014-15.”

In a Jan. 28 report, Duff said the total commitment so far for the marketing year is at 5.8 million metric tons, which is about 226 million bushels or 60% of the crop that was harvested last fall that has already been committed to China.

“But what's really impressive, is the fact that we have 541,000 metric tons or about 22 million bushels that have been committed to be purchased by China already for the crop that you haven't even planted yet,” he said. “And won't even plant for another three months, four months.”

Exciting technology on the horizon

On the technology front, there’s “great news,” Duff said. New technologies like igrowth sorghum will be on the market in 2021, but will have some limitations.

“You're not going to see 100% adoption or 100% availability in the first year but there's a lot of folks talking about and get really excited about this technology,” Duff said. “And the cool thing is this is one of a couple that are actually getting ready to hit the market.”

For Duff and USCP, this is a very exciting development.

“After 12 years of talking about this at the Checkoff we stand here saying in a year that we will actually see adoption of this technology,” he said. “I have to take my hat off to the Kansas organizations and the Kansas farmers generally for your vision and your patience your wisdom your leadership in helping bring this to market.”

New leadership in Washington

It’s certainly an interesting time in federal politics, and no matter the angle, there’s been a lot of changes. Lust tries to sit back and put things in perspective. He’s concerned about the number of executive orders that have been signed by President Joe Biden.

“There are some things that I think are definitely different today that are really important to talk about and consider,” he said. “One of those is just to see how executive orders have really multiplied.”

At the time of the meeting, there had been 42 issued in just the first nine days of the new administration. Lust believes some will be challenged in court. There has been more EO issued than in the four previous administrations.

“I think when we look at what's happening right now with the Biden administration I think that's even more aggressively being used,” he said. “So something that I think it's just important to make sure that you're, you're aware of in terms of some of the things that are being done a little differently in DC than how they have historically been.”

For sorghum, Lust expects his teams to continue to work with their legislative committees on what principles are tied to any legislation that they believe is coming and important to sorghum.

For more information about the KGSPA visit www.ksgrainsorghum.org.

Kylene Scott can be reached at 620-227-1804 or kscott@hpj.com.

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