NE Grain Sorghum Board

Sorghum is a tough plant; so are those individuals that farm the grain. But, even strong plants and strong people need assistance.

The Nebraska Grain Sorghum Board had a busy 2019 helping producers persevere through myriad weather and trade-related challenges.

“The NGSB led the way in providing resources for producers whom were unable to plant other crops due to the wet planting season,” said Nate Blum, NGSB executive director.

In September, the Board again reached out to producers across the state with harvesting and marketing resources. They held several producer education workshops in southeast, northeast, central and southwest Nebraska.

But, there is no rest in sight for the hard-working staff of the Board. Starting this month, the NGSB began working to create robust domestic markets for sorghum products. Their primary focus is on in-state processing for products such as value-added culinary goods, pet food, bioplastics, aquaculture feed, swine feed, poultry feed, cattle feed and industrial applications, Blum said.

“The lack of processing in Nebraska for these products means that Nebraska is conceding value to neighboring states,” he said. “NGSB has identified this growth area as a top priority moving forward and is proactively working with local and state economic development entities to develop proposals which can be shared with potential processors.”

The Board is also taking a proactive stance in regard to international market development. Blum traveled to Hanoi, Vietnam, in September alongside Nebraska Governor Ricketts. There he encouraged Vietnamese officials to approve a phytosanitary protocol that would allow for renewed importation of sorghum to Vietnam.

Blum also participated in Nebraska Department of Agriculture meetings in Washington D.C., in June to encourage passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA).

“The outlook for export markets at this time is best described as cautiously optimistic,” he said. “This is because of the large international market share occupied by China, and the current trade dispute that is taking place.”

The dispute with China illuminates the importance of developing other markets. That is why the NGSB is committed to developing opportunities around the globe to lessen our dependence on a singular trade partner, Blum said.

“Countries such as Mexico, Morocco, Vietnam and Spain have shown an affinity for U.S. sorghum,” he said. “That ought to be leveraged to maximize market impacts internationally.”

In addition to market matters, in 2020 the Board will carry on its mission of supporting Nebraska producers. The group will be operating its new internship program and its producer and consumer education campaigns, as well as hands-on economic development commitments.

The newly formed “Sorghum Army” campaign will also continue providing access to education, promotion, research and advocacy resources for sorghum growers and consumers. On top of that, NGSB is funding multiple leading-edge research projects at the University of Nebraska, Blum said.

The Sorghum Army campaign can be accessed at www.nebraskasorghum.org.

Jon Burleson can be reached at jon.burleson@lee.net.