Harvesting Tomorrow

Sorghum’s Climate Smart Revolution

Article by Chiree Fields, NSP Climate-Smart Grant Director of Operations

In an era increasingly defined by climate awareness and the urgent need for sustainable agricultural practices, National Sorghum Producers has taken a significant step forward. Wrapping up its pioneering year with the five-year Partnership for Climate-Smart Commodities (PCSC) program, NSP has embarked on a journey to innovate with sorghum, focusing on its resilience and versatility as a climate solution.

In its initial phase, NSP adopted a conservative approach to pilot the PCSC program. With 23 producers on board, spanning just over 10,000 acres, this endeavor was a foray into understanding and implementing climate-smart agricultural practices on a scalable level. This exploratory year proved to be immensely educational, laying down the foundation for what is anticipated to be a significant scaling up in 2024. The hands-on experience NSP gained through this program underscores a commitment to not just adopt but to lead in climate-smart agricultural practices.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture played a pivotal role by requiring NSP in its PCSC application to identify a viable market opportunity for climate-smart sorghum. Initially, the focus was on integrating sorghum-based ethanol into the California low-carbon fuels market under the oversight of the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

This strategic direction aimed to ensure a sustainable pathway for sorghum-based ethanol into one of the largest markets in the United States. Despite a shift in focus toward the lucrative Section 45Z tax credit (a low carbon fuels tax credit aimed at incentivizing climate-smart agricultural practices for grain sold to ethanol plants), the groundwork with CARB laid a robust foundation for future endeavors. The Section 45Z tax credit, a pivotal aspect of this journey, emerged as a significant incentive, bolstering the production and utilization of sorghum for biofuels and beyond.

The implications of the 45Z tax credit for sorghum are manifold, enhancing its appeal as a versatile, climate-smart crop. While biofuels remain a primary focus, NSP is keenly aware of the burgeoning demand for sustainable raw materials in the Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) industry. Climate-smart sorghum is now seeing increased demand from CPG companies, signaling a shift toward more sustainable, eco-friendly food products. NSP is currently in discussions with several major CPG entities and is poised to announce a partnership in the coming months that promises to open new market avenues for sorghum growers.

Sustainability in sorghum is not a novel concept. Farmers have been employing climate-smart practices for years, intuitively understanding the benefits of such approaches not just for their yields but for the environment at large. NSP’s PCSC program offers an opportunity to formalize, study and amplify these practices, showcasing the positive environmental impact of sustainably grown sorghum.

NSP’s commitment to sustainability goes beyond mere participation in climate-smart initiatives; it is about leading a narrative change. By demonstrating the intrinsic value of sorghum as a crop that not only adapts to but also mitigates environmental challenges, NSP is setting a precedent for the agricultural sector.

As NSP looks forward to scaling up its PCSC program and expanding into new markets with strategic partnerships, it reaffirms our dedication to sustainability, innovation and the betterment of the environment, while simultaneously creating value for sorghum growers across the nation. Learn more at SorghumGrowers.com/climatesmart.


This story originally appeared in the Spring 2024 Issue of Sorghum Grower magazine.