While wheat growers in the Plains wait on harvest, grain sorghum is going in the ground.
So far, Monday’s crop progress report shows sorghum planting at roughly 30-percent complete. That’s right on pace with the five-year average. Because of the strong export demand, some farmers are adding acres to fill a need.
South-central Nebraska farmer, Doug Saathoff has been farming for 20 years, however this year he’s trying something new by switching some of his acres to grain sorghum.
“I just wanted to try it out. I’m not doing a big scale production. I just wanted to try it out,” said Trumbull, Nebraska farmer, Doug Saathoff.
Saathoff hasn’t planted sorghum since 2009, but because of the export demand and positive basis, he’s dipping his hands into the market again.
“I kind of like soybeans every third year anyway, so I thought I would switch some things and try some grain sorghum,” said Saathoff.
He’s switching half a pivot to grain sorghum on what would be his regular seed corn and soybean rotation.
“It looks like the market is pretty good for it. There’s good export demand for it. The basis is positive right now in the Hastings area,” said Saathoff.
And it looks like Saathoff is paying attention to that demand. The U.S. has exported nearly 318 million bushels of grain sorghum, most of that is going to China, including booking an additional 65 million bushels for next year, going to China as well.
“That’s something we’ve been working on and been present in China market for 33 years and you have to keep chipping away. When a market opportunity like this arises, we need to make sure the U.S. is there to take advantage of them and that’s exactly what happened with sorghum,” said U.S. Grains Council President and CEO Tom Sleight.
Sleight says now the key is to keep the dialogue open between Chinese marketers and sorghum producers.
“We have to keep talking and answering their questions. Do a lot of work on nutritional use of sorghum and marketing on how they buy the sorghum. It has to continue. Markets can shift and we have to be prepared for those shifts,” said Sleight.
Something Saatoff plants to try, and who knows, maybe even continue for years to come. “It’s just something different to save money and maybe earn a little bit too,” said Saathoff.
USDA estimated U.S. farmers would plant 7.9 million acres of grain sorghum in 2015. That’s eleven percent higher than last year.