From 1984 to 2006, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) reported a drop in planted sorghum acreage of 10.8 million acres. According to NASS, the 2006 sorghum crop was 277.5 million bushels, compared to 866.2 million bushels in 1984.

Declining sorghum acres and production have led to decreased private investment in sorghum. These declines brought about a “technology gap” between sorghum and other crops such as corn, cotton, and soybeans. This gap can be overcome by producers investing in their own research through a national checkoff.

The Sorghum Promotion, Research and Information Order provides authority for self-help investment for an industry facing several daunting challenges. The investment of checkoff funds can address a lack of yield improvement and technology, enhance sorghum market development and promotion, and stimulate lagging ethanol research through focused research, information, and promotion programs.

Some initial objectives of checkoff investments include increased crop yields, technology improvement, market enhancement, and increased awareness of sorghum as both a food grain and a feedstock for cellulosic ethanol production. Impacts on first handlers and importers will be minimal. The proposed checkoff enjoys broad support from the sorghum industry.

Within three years of the start of collections, a referendum must be held for producers to vote on the checkoff. Sorghum is holding a delayed referendum because, at this point, no credible list of U.S. sorghum growers exists since only 65 percent of base acres are planted each year.

The period between the first collection of assessments and the referendum will allow USDA to compile a list of producers so they may be notified of their right to vote in the referendum.