Sorghum Races to Support Renewable Fuel Partnerships

NASCAR is known for its fast cars, loud crowds and patriotism but many do not associate the high-speed auto racing events with grain commodities. This all changed, however, when sorghum raced through Texas Motor Speedway on November 3 featured on the hood of a NASCAR truck. Sorghum's presence in this race resulted from state and national partnerships to increase opportunity for sorghum and ethanol.                                  

In 2015, the Sorghum Checkoff partnered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Texas Grain Sorghum Producers Board and Kansas Grain Sorghum Commission to invest in renewable fuel infrastructure across the country with the hope to create more demand for sorghum and ethanol.

The Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership (BIP) launched in 2015 as a program designed to aid states in delivering higher blends of renewable fuel. USDA partnered with 21 states through the BIP program to nearly double the number of fueling pumps nationwide that provide renewable fuels, significantly increasing the market for sorghum and other grains in ethanol production. The USDA committed a one-to-one dollar match for funds totaling up to $100 million provided by state and private industry. The Sorghum Checkoff, Texas Grain Sorghum Producers Board and Kansas Grain Sorghum Commission provided a combined contribution if $250,000 in support of BIP and sorghum's future in the renewable fuels industry.

"What the industry needs is added access to blender pumps as a way to get more demand to support feedstock grains like sorghum into ethanol," said Jesse McCurry, Kansas Grain Sorghum Commission executive director. "[BIP] is a perfect way to help market development and grow the fuel ethanol customer base in states in the Sorghum Belt."

McCurry noted that stations in Kansas like Jump Start have seen great success with BIP already. The program is able to help offset costs for tanks, hoses, pumps and other infrastructure needs when providing a higher blended fuel option for drivers. Providing this fuel option creates a wider customer base for the station while also increasing the market and demand for sorghum and ethanol.

Another result of BIP was showcased at the JAG 350 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in Fort Worth, Texas. Texas Grain Sorghum Producers, in collaboration with the Sorghum Checkoff, partnered with Niece Motorsports and AM Racing to promote sorghum use in ethanol by showcasing Sorghum: The Smart Choice® on the hood of the #45 racing truck driven by Austin Wayne Self. This partnership was an opportunity to promote sorghum to an audience that may be unfamiliar with its use in ethanol fuel.

"This entry-level NASCAR race was a great start for our commodity to be seen by the public who may be unaware of grain sorghum," said Wayne Cleveland, Texas Grain Sorghum Producers executive director. "For our growers, that's a testament to their commitment to this program. We promised growers that we were going to increase capacity for sorghum, and this is a small step in a big world, but it's in the right direction."

As the second largest market for sorghum in the U.S., ethanol and renewable fuels is a steady and important industry for sorghum producers. Through the BIP program, the USDA projects a total of 1,486 stations, 4,880 pumps and 515 tanks will be established to offer higher blended fuel options across the country. This is a large-scale program that will continue to provide benefits to sorghum growers by providing increased opportunity for the ethanol industry in the U.S.

Sorghum Race Truck  Wayne Cleveland, John Duff and Austin Wayne Self

Austin Wayne Self, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver with his #45 truck, next to Wayne Cleveland, Texas Grain Sorghum Producers executive director, and John Duff, Sorghum Checkoff renewables program director. Photo by AM Racing.