Sorghum producers received positive news last week, as a resoundingly favorable vote on the sorghum checkoff referendum assures the industry can continue to back aggressive export market development programs.

News of the successful referendum came as U.S. Grains Council staff and consultants were on a “reverse mission” in Spain and Portugal to capitalize on progress made in January when an Iberian buyers team visited Kansas and Texas to explore U.S. sorghum production.

The visit, organized in partnership with the United Sorghum Checkoff Program (USCP), exposed representatives of 12 large grain-using entities, including swine, poultry and beef producers, to the advantages of using U.S. sorghum.

“We’ve got several objectives with this reverse mission,” said Cary Sifferath, USGC regional director for Mediterranean and Africa. “We want to follow up with the buyers team, but we will also meet with current sorghum users and with millers who are not yet incorporating sorghum in their feed.”

The schedule included outreach in northwest Spain, where importers have the least experience using sorghum. There, the Council’s sorghum feeding seminar attracted 26 feed ingredient companies and buyers, and the Council team was present to watch 35,000 metric tons (1.4 million bushels) of U.S. sorghum being unloaded at the port of Marin — one of two 35,000 ton purchases made since January by a Spanish member of the team.

Incorrect nutritional data

Sifferath explained that many current users still have incorrect nutritional data that doesn’t recognize sorghum’s true benefits. The reverse mission is providing current data and instructing participants on how to use sorghum most effectively.

For non-users, the team will provide educational materials and briefings on how incorporating sorghum can reduce feed costs.

“This is the kind of practical, hands-on work we can do to promote sorghum as the U.S. sorghum industry leadership and USCP funding,” said Chris Corry, USGC senior director of international operations.

The current push to maximize sorghum sales is especially timely because the European Union is in the final four weeks of its buying season, which will wind down as the 2011 EU feed grain crop starts to hit markets July 1. It usually takes six weeks to execute a trade.

The sorghum referendum, conducted in February, produced a healthy 76 percent vote of approval for the checkoff, which passed in every state where votes were cast.

U.S. sorghum exports to the EU totaled almost 730,000 tons (29 million bushels) as of March 24, and sales of an additional 60,000 tons (2 million bushels) were outstanding. From no sorghum purchases last market year, Spanish purchases now stand at 590,000 metric tons (23 million bushels), making it the number two market, behind Mexico, for U.S. sorghum exports in 2010/2011.