The Sorghum Promotion, Research and Information Order officially began collections July 1 for a program that will ultimately contribute to the improved development of the sorghum industry.

The National Sorghum Producers Board of Directors has been working toward the creation of a nation-wide sorghum check-off program for more than two years.

"The first checked-off load represents a milestone for the sorghum industry," said NSP President Dale Murden of Monte Alto, Texas. "This step will lead to more research on sorghum, better markets for sorghum, and eventually more acres for this crop."

The check-off rate for grain sorghum is 0.6 percent of value and is collected at the first point of sale. The check-off rate for forage sorghum is 0.35 percent of value. In many states, a previously existing state check-off was suspended upon commencement of national check-off assessments.

"We have watched the decline of sorghum acres and the sorghum industry for the last 28 years," said Gerald Simonsen, a farmer from Ruskin, Nebraska. "To the producers for whom sorghum is an important part of their operation, the national sorghum check-off is without any doubt the most positive move we have seen in those 28 years."

Sorghum, deemed the "water-sipping crop," is especially adaptable in semi-arid climates and uses one-third less water than some of its counterpart grains. It is used for animal feeding, for high-output ethanol production, as a gluten-free alternative food, and has many niche markets such as birdseed and wallboard. Much of the U.S. sorghum crop is also exported to Mexico and Europe for animal feeding and ethanol production.

"We have watched as public and private funding for the industry has been cut," Simonsen said. "To me, it is inspiring that producers have taken it upon themselves to invest in their own industry."

NSP represents U.S. sorghum producers and works to ensure the profitability of sorghum production coast to coast through education, legislative and regulatory representation. To learn more about NSP, visit www.sorghumgrowers.com.