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Sorghum Grower Magazine

Spring 2019 Articles

Tim Lust

The Support Picture | CEO’s Desk

By trade association standards, through one lens, National Sorghum Producers successfully created support in 2018 that helped many sorghum farmers continue to operate into this growing season. We have proudly talked about the financial support scope received by our farmers, including $0.72 per bushel in PLC payments and $0.86 per bushel in Market Facilitation Program payments. In total, approximately $17.3 billion in USDA support payments for all commodities will go to farmers and ranchers in the 2018-2019 season.

Many of our members clearly told me in the last three months those extra dollars through MFP payments were the difference in their farm making money rather than losing money. While it is common to look back at the past year, history can be a wonderful teacher. However, in today’s farm economy, farmer CEOs, trade association CEOs and congressional leaders better be looking ahead!

There is another lens we must look through that brings together the entire agriculture economy picture. Our D.C. representatives were recently briefing us, and Combest Sell & Associates principle Tom Sell shared an extremely impactful number. It is projected there will only be $4.7 billion in payments to farmers and ranchers this fall. That’s the lowest level since 1982. The drop of $12.6 billion from last year to this year is a substantial drop at a time when farmers are already struggling.

While there is great hope for a silver bullet trade deal or deals that will magically increase commodity prices, there have only been two events in the last 50 years that have had that kind of demand pull — the last one being ethanol. Realistically, it has taken time to work out from under low prices driven by excess supply in the past, and it has taken help from the U.S. tax payer. In the late 1990s we saw significant challenges with multiple-year low prices, and the government stepped in with multiple-year disaster packages.

Unfortunately, financial challenges persist, and the drop in support dollars for agriculture from 2019-2020 with farm income down 50 percent is sobering. While the price you receive for your sorghum is critical, we have seen in the past year why policy is also very meaningful to your bottom line, and National Sorghum Producers will continue to be in D.C. on your behalf through a very important time in world trade negotiations. Evaluating your needs for more support is a critical priority, and we value your input on this issue—email info@sorghumgrowers.com. I don’t want to cry wolf too soon, but we don’t want to be asleep at the wheel as our farm families crumble either.

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