A new pest risk assessment was approved by both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, opening the door for U.S. sorghum to flow into the country for high-value uses including pet food, liquor, aquaculture, poultry and swine industries.
This opening follows nearly five years of collaborative efforts by the United Sorghum Checkoff Program, National Sorghum Producers, the U.S. Grains Council and state sorghum organizations, in addition to work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, plus regulators and industry in Vietnam.
“From an initial visit in 2015 by USCP and the USGC to discover the potential for sorghum in various marketplaces to the development of a fish feeding trial followed by the release of very positive trial results, our organizations have worked to create opportunity for U.S. sorghum in Vietnam,” said Sorghum Checkoff Executive Director Florentino Lopez. “Of course, all this work would fall short without organizations like NSP that came in along the way to help steward the approvals needed to make it official. Our persistence has paid off, creating an additional market opportunity for U.S. sorghum farmers.”
The Sorghum Checkoff and Council worked in Vietnam to assess potential markets for U.S. sorghum. This included feeding trials to test the viability of replacing cassava, a root vegetable, with grain sorghum in feed rations for Pangasius, a large catfish species native to Southeast Asia, diets.
The groundwork the USCP, NSP and the Council built in Southeast Asia’s aquaculture sector was a critical step in seeing this opportunity to diversify U.S. sorghum’s export markets through one of the fastest-growing food-producing sectors globally.
While the size of the export opportunity to Vietnam remains uncertain, the Sorghum Checkoff sees tremendous potential as aquaculture is one of the fastest growing segments of the sorghum industry with interest both domestically and globally. For more information on sorghum’s role in Vietnamese markets, visit sorghumcheckoff.com and usgrains.org.
The United Sorghum Checkoff Program recently underwent an Administrative Review in accordance with the Commodity Promotion, Research and Information Act of 1996 (Act) and Sorghum Promotion, Research and Information Order (Order).
The review is conducted every three years and ensures the organization’s compliance with the Act, Order, Bylaws and USDA AMS Guidelines, which in turn maintain fiscal responsibility of USCP to the farmer.
Earlier this year, the Sorghum Checkoff started the auditing process amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Unprecedented circumstances required innovative solutions to complete the audit virtually. The Sorghum Checkoff was recognized to be fully accredited after a thorough review by USDA-AMS.
The United Sorghum Checkoff Program selected 13 members to Leadership Sorghum Class V, a program designed to develop the next generation of sorghum leaders and industry advocates.
“Leadership Sorghum has become a staple for recruiting new leaders to the sorghum industry and fulfilling those roles on state, national and associated boards and committees,” Sorghum Checkoff Board Chairman Craig Poore, a sorghum farmer from Alton, Kansas, said. “As a past graduate, I believe leadership is vital to the success of any industry, and congratulate these individuals for being selected to the program.”
Participants of the Leadership Sorghum program will gain an understanding of how sorghum moves through the value chain, how checkoffs and interest groups interact on behalf of the industry and what the future holds for the crop through hands-on and classroom-style education. Leadership Sorghum Class V will complete professional development training and have several networking opportunities, as well.
“The Sorghum Checkoff uses this program to prepare sorghum advocates and leaders at the local, state and federal level,” Leadership Sorghum Program Director Shelee Padgett said. “Leadership development is critical to the sorghum industry’s advancement, and we are so excited to equip Class V with skills to advocate for their operations and the sorghum industry as a whole.”
The Sorghum Checkoff recognizes the benefits of meeting face-to-face and networking with farmer peers and industry leaders, but given the restrictions placed on companies and regions due to COVID-19, some modifications to the traditional Leadership Sorghum program timeline and structure have changed for Class V. The program, originally slated to start in August, will now begin in December 2020. The ultimate goal is to provide program participants with the same quality experience offered in the past while also keeping the health and safety of participants, staff and guests in mind. The Sorghum Checkoff will continue to evaluate these measures as the program moves forward.
For more information about the Leadership Sorghum program, visit LeadSorghum.com.
While the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily closed Sorghum Checkoff headquarters and canceled or modified many meetings, Sorghum Checkoff staff continue to work hard on behalf of sorghum farmers and the industry.
Each summer, one of the Sorghum Checkoff’s key strategies is showcasing the U.S. sorghum crop to international buyers through trade team visits. With international travel restrictions in place, the Sorghum Checkoff has taken measures to showcase the crop virtually by contracting XR Global Consulting, a company specializing in virtual reality, to capture 3D video content that will allow potential buyers to not only see but interact with U.S. sorghum from their respective countries of origin.
The Sorghum Checkoff will launch a video at the end of July of the Texas Coastal Bend harvest and will continue to report on crop progress and quality as the growing season progresses north through the Sorghum Belt.
The content will be made available to international customers through digitally accessible platforms to ensure U.S. sorghum farmers maintain relationships with buyers and do not miss an opportunity to market this year’s sorghum crop. The initial video will be available on the Sorghum Checkoff YouTube channel at youtube.com/sorghumcheckoff.
Like other industries, the Sorghum Checkoff continues to push forward as our producers do the same on the farm. Through virtual meetings, conferences and other means, we continue to carry out the strategic plan and seek ways to innovate during this unique climate for the betterment of the sorghum industry, and we look forward to the time we can once again see you in the field.
This story originally appeared in the Summer 2020 Issue of Sorghum Grower magazine in the Checkoff Newsletter department.