It was an idea born out of escalating transportation costs for raw materials out of the Midwest, but David Hull, commodity merchandiser for Murphy-Brown LLC explains that bringing grain sorghum production back to the Carolinas has turned into much more than a cost saving measure for pork production:
“Our intention is not have milo replace corn. We want to buy all the grain period, that we can get our hands on, not just milo. The reason we created a milo, is most farms have a situation where they need another crop for rotation, if they have pigweed problems they want a grass type crop, it might be a piece of soil that is not good for corn or wheat and they need something on there. Or they want to follow wheat with something other than soybeans because its marginal land. It’s meant to give the farmers another tool.”
And growing sorghum in the Carolinas helps keep local dollars local according to Hull:
“We created a market for it. I think it’s the first big market that has been in this part of the country in many years for sorghum. We can handle all that can be produced. A big part of our effort this year is to help increase local production and keep that money in our three states.”
Hull explains that Murphy-Brown offers all types and manners of sales opportunity for grain sorghum:
“We have a basis contract, a forward or spot basis contract, a flat price contract or a spot price that we post every day. That is most of the sorghum that we have bought this year has been on spot price because the farmers didn’t know what they would yield or when it was going to come off. They wanted to take any risks out of it. We could do that with a spot delivery price. I think creating the market and then giving the flexibility of a range of contracts to help them, we have done a pretty good job.”
Murphy-Brown has made an effort to work with farmers to make sorghum a viable, long-term crop in the Carolinas:
“To make this work, we have to be able to allow the farmers to harvest at a higher moisture level than what mills are designed to us. So we have spent money to put in dryers. That is our commitment to this. We know that if you wait till it dries down to 14-14.5% you will suffer huge loss to shatter and other things. So we put the dryers in to encourage people to grow it and know that if they need to cut it at 20% there will be a discount this year and I imagine next year as well.”
Hull says bringing a sorghum market to the Carolinas is one of the biggest things he’s seen in his 30 plus years in agriculture, and it’s a change that Murphy-Brown is committed to:
“This is a permanent change of the way we are going to do business.”
North Carolina Department of Agriculture estimates as many as 50,000 acres of grain sorghum were grown in the state this year, a 10-fold increase over 2011.
We’ll have more on alternative crops in the Carolinas all this month on Southern Farm Network and here in our alternative crop series.
Commodity Merchandiser for Murphy-Brown LLC, David Hull