Posted on Aug 16, 2017
Class members were able to see how their sorghum grain moves to end users beyond their state.
The session launched with a presentation from Florentino Lopez, Sorghum Checkoff executive director, on the importance of international markets to U.S. sorghum producers. Lopez emphasized growth in international markets with new opportunities coming to fruition such as aquaculture in China and consumer food and beverage in Japan, showcasing the growing demand for sorghum. The group also heard from Michael Deliberto, Ph.D., from the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness at Louisiana State University on U.S. agricultural trade policies.
"As a small town farmer, I didn't always understand the importance or complexities of international markets," said Gary Mach, Leadership Sorghum Class III member from Abbott, Texas. "International markets show there is still a drive and a need out there for the sorghum industry, and new markets continue to emerge."
To see how grain is loaded and unloaded onto vessels for international shipping, Leadership Sorghum visited with Cenex Harvest States in Belle Chasse, Louisiana, and Bunge North America in Destrehan, Louisiana. At these locations, the group toured docking facilities where grain is loaded onto barges and lifted onto cargo ships of varying sizes where it will be shipped overseas. The class was able to witness up-close the specialized equipment used to load and unload grain vessels as well as the amount of time and energy spent ensuring an export order meets quality and quantity standards.
A highlight of the trip was visiting the Port of New Orleans, the sixth-largest port in the U.S. by volume of cargo handled and the 13th-largest based on value of cargo. Class members drove through the port, learning about the different container options offered at the facilities and the potential cost of grain shipments.
In addition to visiting grain loading facilities, the class toured the laboratories at Russell Marine Group, a company specializing in cargo inspections, sampling, analysis and quality testing. Class members were walked through the various processes used to test for tannins, an organic substance found in low levels in U.S. sorghum, as well as other nutritional components such as protein and vitamins. Here the class learned the importance of high quality sorghum to international and domestic buyers.
"Just because you grow a crop doesn't mean you always understand every aspect of it," said Allen Hensley, Leadership Sorghum Class III member from Alice, Texas. "As I am gathering all the information I'm taking in through this program I'm able to pass it along to other growers from my area so that we all can be better educated."
Leadership Sorghum is a program focused on educating sorghum producers on all aspects of the sorghum industry. From genetics to exports, the class members receive a well-rounded look into the different businesses and locations that make our sorghum industry succeed. The final session for Leadership Sorghum Class III will be held December 12-14 in Lubbock, Texas, where class members will learn about the Sorghum Checkoff Board of Directors' roles and functions and participate in a graduation ceremony. For more information on Leadership Sorghum and how to apply for Class IV, visit LeadSorghum.com.
Leadership Sorghum Class III members visit CHS - Myrtle Grove in Belle Chasse, Louisiana