I am a fourth-generation farmer from Cimarron County in the Oklahoma Panhandle. I started farming in partnership with my father in 1969 when I graduated from college, and, soon after that, I married Carol, my lovely wife of 51 years
For several years we farmed mostly wheat, fallow, wheat, and wheat for grazing purposes. In the mid-1980s, I brought sorghum onto the farm with a wheat, sorghum, fallow rotation that we still use today. I believe that in our environment, my wheat yields actually increased with this rotation.
In 1993, my son Jarrod came into partnership on the farm. I had a great personal and business relationship with my father, and now I have that same relationship with my son—we have a very blessed life on the Stewart farm. I have been a member of National Sorghum Producers for over 30 years. I am convinced that my longtime membership in this organization has contributed to my success on the farm. In the early years, sorghum seemed to be a pretty boring crop as it had a set basis relative to corn. When commercial ethanol production came to the Sorghum Belt, we had a bump up in basis value because sorghum is equal in value to corn for ethanol volume and the distillers grain has higher protein with sorghum.
Sorghum is a relatively small commodity when compared to the other major crops; therefore we need a high percentage of producers to support our organizations.
Many years ago, much of what we now call the Sorghum Belt had many wild and spirited herds of Mustang horses roaming the prairies. I mention this analogy because in the past few years our sorghum production has experienced a wild and spirited basis increase across those same prairies.
China came into the market so aggressively that it appeared our entire crop was a niche market. As producers, we experienced increased value in our crop that was never dreamed of previously. This kind of value increase does not happen by accident. The Sorghum Checkoff invested in this market development, and NSP invested time and money in governmental policy development in order for this to all come into place.
I urge everyone reading this to become active members of NSP and to support our Sorghum Political Action Committee (PAC). Sorghum is a relatively small commodity when compared to the other major crops; therefore, we need a high percentage of producers to support our organizations. We need an efficient and well-staffed NSP in order to maintain this excitement in our industry. Strategic placement of Sorghum PAC dollars ensures that our crop is well positioned as farm policies change.
I served on the NSP board of directors for several years and went through the officer rotation, which is not something I had planned to do, but I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of my time on the board and made many lifelong friends. It is not easy, but it is extremely rewarding.
I hope that no one reading this thinks when NSP goes to Washington, D.C., they are there on vacation. I can assure you those trips are the most intense, action-packed three or four days on the planet. Oftentimes we are scheduled non-stop from 8:00 a.m. until dinner with meetings in Senate and House offices, USDA and EPA.
Sorghum Leaders go there on behalf of our producers and have gained a lot of wins that show up on everyone’s bottom line. I have tremendous respect for our sorghum organizations, and I am thankful for the value I have received across the many years of my membership. I welcome all who wish to contribute to Team Sorghum.
For more information on how to become a member visit sorghumgrowers.com
This story originally appeared in the Fall 2021 issue of Sorghum Grower magazine.