Cotton could lose acres to grain sorghum this year if prices don’t change in the next few weeks.
“We’re just trying to keep our options open. We’ll get down to the last minute and run the numbers to see what makes sense,” says Casey Kimbrell, a farmer from Sunray, Texas. “If we’re going to lose money, I’d rather lose money on sorghum instead of cotton. Our inputs are over $700 an acre on irrigated cotton and on irrigated milo they’re around $350.”
Last year U.S. farmers planted 5.26 million acres of sorghum. Will it gain more acres in 2020?
“Sorghum would certainly seem to have more opportunity than some other crops because it is the crop China has really focused on buying,” says Arlan Suderman, chief economist for INTL FCStone.
In mid-March, USDA reported export sales of sorghum to China surged, with one week showing the highest level of sales in nearly six years.
“We know April will be a very telling time for us in terms of giving us a size and scope of sales,” says Tim Lust, CEO of National Sorghum Producers. “We know China is committed to starting purchases.”
In southern China, Suderman says, there’s a shortage of feed at affordable prices. The situation could create an opportunity for U.S. grain.
Sorghum basis is strengthening in the southern Plains. For farmers like Kimbrell, price and opportunity might tip the scales in the grain’s favor come planting.