The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced that the United Sorghum Checkoff Program referendum held Feb. 1-28, 2011, has produced a majority consensus and the Sorghum Checkoff will remain in operation.

Gerald Simonsen, National Sorghum Producers chairman of the board and sorghum farmer from Ruskin, Neb., proclaimed the results as a huge win for the industry and sorghum farmers across the nation.

Of the 1,204 valid ballots cast, 917 or 76.2 percent favored the program and 287 or 23.7 percent opposed continuing the program. The program had to be approved by at least a majority of those eligible persons voting for approval who were engaged in the production and sale of sorghum during the period July 1, 2008, through Dec. 31, 2010.

 “The NSP board recognized a need three years ago for improvement in the sorghum industry in the areas of market development, research and education,” said Simonsen. “We developed a vision, worked with USDA to create the program and are proud of the results the Sorghum Checkoff has produced in its two short years of operation.”

Barry Evans, a sorghum farmer from Kress, Texas, said he is proud of those who banded together and foresaw the changes required to push the sorghum industry forward.

“Farmers are known to take the initiative and implement the steps necessary to accomplish a goal. This is a prime example of seeing a need and coming together to further our industry,” said Evans. “The projects that will be undertaken could never happen with one person, but when we join together, we can achieve a more diversified and profitable industry. Sorghum needed this.”

Bill Kubecka, United Sorghum Checkoff Program chairman and Palacios, Texas, farmer, said the passing of the referendum is a big step in the right direction for the sorghum industry.

“The Sorghum Checkoff will continue funding projects to improve sorghum  production and demand enhancements to increase the value of U.S. sorghum and farmers’ profitability,” Kubecka said. “There are still many obstacles to overcome, but we will build a stronger sorghum industry through research, market development and education efforts.”

 “This will breathe new life into the sorghum industry,” said Terry Swanson, vice chairman of the board and sorghum farmer from Walsh, Colo., “The research and marketing component of the checkoff is an integral part of the success of our industry—an area that did not receive much support until now. Sorghum is gaining the technology needed to regain acres lost in the past, and producers are becoming more aware of the far-reaching benefits sorghum has to offer.”

"We are excited and thrilled with the results of the referendum and we understand the responsibility we have to continue to improve the industry and producer profitability,” said Tim Lust, CEO of the United Sorghum Checkoff Program. “The board and staff will keep working hard and will focus on the next steps for the program, which include continuing research and technology advancement projects to improve the crop's competitiveness."

Important milestone

“The passing of the referendum is an important milestone for the crop and the industry,” said Bill Greving, Sorghum Checkoff past chairman from Prairie View, Kan. “The Sorghum Checkoff has accomplished many goals and will continue to work hard to drive the sorghum industry forward.”

 “We are pleased to announce that this Checkoff program will continue, and I am confident that this program will further its goal of strengthening the industry and expanding marketing opportunities for sorghum producers and importers,” said USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator Rayne Pegg.

The Sorghum Checkoff was established under the Commodity Research, Promotion and Information Act of 1996, and according to USDA Act and Order, was required to hold a referendum within three years of beginning operations. Sorghum farmers who paid an assessment had an opportunity to vote through their local FSA office to determine the future of the checkoff.

The goal of the program is to strengthen the position of, and to develop and expand the markets for sorghum and sorghum products. The assessment for grain sorghum is 0.6 percent of net market value and 0.35 percent of net market value for sorghum forage, sorghum hay, sorghum haylage, sorghum billets and sorghum silage. Although limited, imports of sorghum and sorghum products are also assessed.

 The United Sorghum Checkoff Board administers the program and is comprised of 13 sorghum producers, which includes representatives from the three largest sorghum producing states and four at large members.