KansCAT Collaboration Lays Groundwork for $65M USDA Award

The collaboration between National Sorghum Producers, the Kansas Sorghum Association and Kansas State University not only served as the base for NSP’s USDA Partnership for Climate-Smart Commodities Program, but also fostered growth and development of the next generation of industry professionals.

Article by John Duff, Sero Ag Strategies

More than three years prior to its landmark $65 million award under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Partnership for Climate-Smart Commodities (PCSC) program, National Sorghum Producers partnered with the Kansas Natural Resources Conservation Service on an effort commonly known as the KansCAT project. The project still stands as a testament to the power of collaboration, and it was pivotal in laying the groundwork for the NSP’s current USDA-backed PCSC effort.

KansCAT focused on sustainability data collection through a new data platform, which became instrumental in driving the sorghum industry’s strategies under the new NSP PCSC effort. But perhaps more importantly, KansCAT catalyzed a key partnership between Kansas Sorghum and Kansas State University (KSU), which has proven invaluable in fostering a new generation of talent in the sorghum industry.

Adam York, CEO of Kansas Sorghum, and then-coordinator of the fellowship program is passionate about the project’s practical impacts.
“The KansCAT initiative allowed us to step up and create a successful fellowship program,” York said. “It wasn’t just about collecting data; it was about providing young professionals from KSU with real-world experience in our industry. While we certainly aimed at improving on-farm profitability and sustainability, we also focused on developing the next generation of talent for the sorghum industry.

“KansCAT also maximized our state association’s intentionality for our fellows’ time by providing technical application of conservation and sustainability practices while we provided day-to-day career and professional skills development,” York continued. “The program is now in its fifth year providing training to the next generation of talented sorghum professionals in Kansas.”

Sanders Williams, who now works as the director of inclusion and diversity for NSP’s PCSC program, is one such young professional. Williams’s journey from a KSU student with no prior agricultural background to a key figure in the sorghum industry highlights the project’s broader impact.

“My work with KansCAT at Kansas Sorghum was pivotal,” Williams said. “It was about more than just the research. It drove my understanding of the importance of direct engagement with farmers and the practical application of our technical findings.”

The project’s ability to bridge technical knowledge with practical application provided Williams and other fellows and interns with a comprehensive understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the sorghum industry.

“Working closely with the technical staff at NSP and seeing how our data and surveys could directly benefit Kansas sorghum producers in a practical way was incredibly rewarding,” Williams said. “The first tool that KansCAT equipped me with was an appreciation of the importance of meeting face-to-face with the producers we’re working with. In turn, this allowed me to see the importance of developing a communications plan while also getting more comfortable working on the technical farm level.”

In addition to helping set the tone for sustainability initiatives in the industry, the KansCAT project—at its core a partnership between NSP, Kansas Sorghum and KSU—was a springboard for fostering a skilled workforce dedicated to advancing the interests of sorghum producers. For these reasons, KansCAT will forever remain an important milestone for sorghum producers and their industry partners.


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