Investments in a Renewable Future
Renewables have driven significant investment in sorghum over the past several years. Not only has private industry taken an aggressive approach to investing in sorghum research and development, entities such as the Sorghum Checkoff, the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have made investments that will contribute to a successful renewable future with sorghum.
The Sorghum Checkoff has committed more than $3.1 million to renewables since 2011. The projects have been balanced between research and development and market development. In many cases, these dollars have been leveraged with private industry, university and federal funds. We are already seeing positive results of much of the invested dollars with successes ranging from new product being discovered to heighted awareness of renewable issues.
Since 2011, DOE has committed $72.6 million to sorghum, including a commitment of $62.5 million in 2015 alone. Like with most DOE investments, the projects funded by these dollars are based on technology that disrupts the status quo. As a result of these projects, for the first time sorghum breeders will have access to high-technology tools that breeders of other crops have had access to for decades. These efforts will focus on everything from high-throughput phenotyping using in-field sensory technology to drought tolerance and nitrogen usage efficiency interactions within the plant microbiome.
With one-third of the U.S. sorghum crop going to ethanol, increased access for the fuel is of the upmost importance. Recognizing the need for greater market access, in 2015 USDA committed $100 million for infrasturce to move higher blends of ethanol with the Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership. There was great interest in the program and the funds were matched using private resources with a ration of more than 1:1. The funding will support approximately 5,000 pumps at 1,400 fueling stations throughout the U.S. Texas and Kansas received dollars under the program for a total of $18.3 million greatly benefiting sorghum ethanol demand in those states. The sorghum industry also contributed $250 million to match.