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Sorghum Checkoff funds find their way back to the farm in the form of improved hybrids
<p>Sorghum Checkoff funds find their way back to the farm in the form of improved hybrids.</p>

Sorghum producers vote in checkoff referendum march 23 through April 21

After seven years of significant accomplishments the nation’s grain sorghum producers have a chance to continue their successful Sorghum Checkoff Program through a referendum. Voting will run from March 23 through April 21, 2015, according to The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The Sorghum Promotion, Research, and Information Order requires that a referendum be conducted no later than seven years after the start of assessments, which began on July 1, 2008. For the program to continue, a majority of those voting must favor the continuation of the order.

Ballots may be obtained in person, by mail or facsimile at county FSA offices, or via the Internet.

The referendum will take place at county USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices for producers and at the Agricultural Marketing Service office for importers.

Any eligible person engaged in the production or importation of sorghum from January 1, 2011, to December 31, 2014, is eligible to participate. Individuals are required to provide documentation such as a sales receipt or remittance form that shows they engaged in the production or importation of sorghum.

The program has been extremely successful, according to a recent Sorghum Checkoff publication, 7 Years of Success.  “The Sorghum Checkoff has positioned itself to create positive change for the sorghum industry. Fostering and leveraging farmer dollars is a core value of the Sorghum Checkoff, which has provided opportunity for the sorghum industry to grow and improve. Since its establishment in 2008, the Sorghum Checkoff has celebrated many accomplishments.”

Among the success stories are a 47 percent increase in sorghum exports since 2008 and genetic mapping to improve diversity of breeding lines with potential to develop sorghum with more cold tolerance, drought tolerance and disease resistance. Nutritional enhancements and improved yield potential are also anticipated from better genetics.

A renewable fuels promotion effort has also paid dividends. Typically, about one-third of the annual sorghum crop is used to produce ethanol, an industry that has spawned more than 9,000 jobs, is saving consumers some $3.1 billion at the gas pump every year and contributes $2.5 billion to the U.S. economy. That’s all from 336 million gallons of ethanol from grain sorghum per year. These figures represent effort of the past five years.

“When we go back to the foundation of why the Sorghum Checkoff was started, it was geared toward improving the sorghum industry overall,” says Florentino Lopez, Sorghum Checkoff executive director. “This program (Sorghum Checkoff) has allowed us to focus on the industry and for producers to have a voice. It’s brought unity to the industry and is representative of everyone being at the table.”

Relationships have been important to the process. “The Sorghum Checkoff is building relationships throughout the industry and bringing companies back to sorghum. Financially, investments are being made, and (the industry leaders) are listening to the needs of producers. They’re not all headed the same direction, but at least they are at the table.

“The Sorghum Checkoff is creating demand, whether that is a box of Special K utilizing sorghum or the grain being shipped to China, which is a huge improvement to the industry. The conversion program introduced 144 newly converted lines that were not available to the industry in the past. This program offers diverse opportunity to the sorghum industry and is available to any end-user who wishes to use the technology.”

The Sorghum Checkoff Program, and its 13-member board, is authorized by the Commodity Promotion, Research, and Information Act of 1996. The Sorghum Checkoff is intended to be a national, coordinated, self-help marketing program designed to strengthen the position of sorghum in the marketplace, maintain and expand existing domestic and foreign markets and uses for sorghum, and develop new markets and uses for sorghum.

The final procedures were published in the Nov. 18, 2010, Federal Register. The notice announcing the dates of the referendum were published in the Feb. 19, 2015, Federal Register.

For more information, contact Craig Shackelford, Marketing Specialist, Research and Promotion Division, Livestock, Poultry, and Seed Program, AMS, USDA, 22 Jamesport Lane, White, GA 30184; Telephone: (470) 315-4246;  For procedures and additional information about the referendum check here.

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