In 2011, Murphy-Brown LLC, the production arm of Smithfield Foods, had several successful test plots of grain sorghum in North Carolina. Earlier this month at the Joint Commodities Conference, National Sorghum Producers had a booth at the Conference and Lindsay Kennedy, External Affairs Director for NSP said the inquiries into grain sorghum during the conference were:
“It was refreshing to see the interest that we had in North Carolina. Obviously, Murphy Brown is doing a lot of promotional work, and producers are seeing that there is a need for grain sorghum, and that there will be a market for that crop there. So, yes, it was really neat to see the amount of interest that is really there in that area.”
Kennedy explains why producer interest in grain sorghum was so high:
“Well, I think it was a variety of reasons why they were looking at grain sorghum there in North Carolina. One being, there’s been three years in the last five years that the corn crop has failed due to a variety of reasons, one being dry weather. Of course, sorghum is a drought-tolerant crop, so it could fit into that kind of situation in that region. Another is weed resistance, they’ve had some crops there that are having problems with weed resistance, so bring in another crop like grain sorghum and it fits nicely into that rotation to help control weeds.”
And there was a common theme to the interest that Kennedy saw at the conference:
“I would says that one of the common things we did hear is that a lot of folks would be using grain sorghum in a double-crop situation behind winter wheat, and that seemed to fit well into a lot of operations there in North Carolina. So, as far as information that we’re providing, we’re trying to work towards that to help them in a double-crop situation. I kind of wore two hats while I was there; I work part-time for the National Sorghum Producers, and I work part time for the sorghum checkoff. So, from a sorghum checkoff standoff we can provide a lot of educational materials and how they can grow sorghum, answer any production questions they may have, and from the Association standpoint, we were able to go in, we had a visit with RMA to discuss an insurance question mainly on that double cropping situation to try to get that planting date moved back to later in June to allow for that double cropping situation there in their operation.”
As far as the assessment and resources of the Sorghum Checkoff, Kennedy says that it’s already at work for eastern producers:
“We will be involved from the very beginning. They have a state assessments, but once they start collecting grain the assessment is taken from the first handler, so that will come into play as soon as grain is really being produced. And, you know from a Sorghum Checkoff standpoint we have really been involved the most with Murphy Brown and within the state from an educational standpoint.
Really, kind of a middle man to help make sure that the right people are in the right room, that the right information is getting put into place, so from the association standpoint on the National Sorghum Producers side we can take care of some of the regulatory issues or some of the RMA issues. So, both organizations are playing a role in trying to get the ball rolling there.”
Murphy Brown is launching a new website dedicated to their grain purchasing efforts, including grain sorghum— www.mbgrain.com. The site is scheduled to be fully online in March.