The proverbial saying “every cloud has a silver lining” has found new meaning for most farmers over the past few weeks. It’s obvious to see the United States, and the entire world for that matter, has been shadowed by the cloud of the COVID-19 pandemic. Daily life in the U.S. has changed for most Americans, but farmers are continuing to forge ahead with spring field work. While during this crisis agriculture has been deemed essential infrastructure by the Administration, our membership is fully aware that ag is critically essential every day.
The silver lining for sorghum producers within these socially trying times is that the trade deals struck by the current Presidential administration are beginning to bear fruit. It was an absolute honor to announce to the Commodity Classic General Session that nearly 500,000 metric tons of sorghum had been sold for export; the single largest sale of sorghum since the U.S.-China trade dispute started in 2018. Since that time, more sales have transacted, building momentum for sorghum exports.
As the export market for sorghum has heated up, local basis bids have narrowed dramatically. Even here in northwest Kansas, far from an export terminal, basis has jumped $0.40-$0.50 over the last month. It is a very welcomed plus up for farm profitability, and as we move into the 2020 planting season for the northern part of the Sorghum Belt, I expect to see an expansion in acreage. With a great number of new hybrids coming to market this year and exciting technologies in the pipeline, I continue to be very optimistic about growth within our industry.
I also continually tell producers that policy is very impactful to their farms. While policy creation is normally throttled back during the silly season of an election year, farm policy implementation is always ongoing. ARC and PLC signups are now behind us, but I would encourage producers to stay engaged with their FSA offices. The deadline for updating FSA farm program yields is Sept. 30. In addition, many sorghum farmers can qualify for disaster aid through the WHIP+ program. If any of your farms are in counties experiencing D3 drought conditions in 2018 or 2019, there is a good possibility your county may be included in the program.
Uncertainty is nothing new to those of us within agriculture. We face the adversity of harsh weather, fluctuating markets and other issues on a daily basis. While the world as a whole is dealing with a pandemic, American agriculture will continue to put on their work boots every day and provide for the food, fiber and fuel needs of our nation.