Farm Bill Anxieties, Advanced Biofuels Opportunities On Sorghum Growers MindsMon, 10 Dec 2012 19:15:12 CST
Tim Lust of the National Sorghum producers says time is running out on getting a farm bill passed and signed before the end of the year. He spoke recently with Radio Oklahoma Network's Ron Hays about a number of issues and says there are a lot of threads coming together in Washington at the present moment and it’s unclear how the bill will fare before the end of the year.
“I strongly believe that the ag leaders have the ability to finalize the ag package, my concern is where does this fit into the bigger picture and the overall package between the House and the Senate and the President related to the big fiscal cliff issues. I think it’s a little early to know exactly what that outcome’s going to be.”
If there is not farm bill before the current Congress adjourns, Lust says something will have to be done early next year. There are many provisions of the current legislation that are positive for sorghum producers and he hopes they will be carried forward.
“Well, I think that’s just the reality of the process to go on and you have to reauthorize farm bill legislation in some form or fashion just to keep moving forward. I think those principles that have been important to our producers all along are still important to our producers. I believe those items are included in some combination of both the House and the Senate bill-a lot more of ours in the House version-but some good things in the Senate version in some areas related to insurance as well that are important to us. So, hopefully, we can get through that. If not, clearly, something’s still got to be done because we have some changes and expirations that we can’t go back to the permanent law. It’s often talked about, but it’s really not practical in terms of things. So, something will happen, but it’s, unfortunately, still pretty unclear exactly what that is.”
He says one of the most important parts of any farm bill, in his eyes, is crop insurance. Changes to crop insurance in the 2008 bill meant over $30 million has gone out to sorghum growers who lost their crops. In the last two years, sorghum growers in Oklahoma received $3 million dollars for their losses.
“We hate that they had a crop loss, but we’re glad that farm policy is able to help them with that loss and be able to continue to stay in business and do what they have to do and pay the bills that they have to pay around town.
“As we look forward to 2013, particularly for the Oklahoma panhandle, the expansion of the sorghum silage insurance program there under irrigation is a very positive thing. And in some of those areas where we have water declines, there’s a lot of interest by the feedyards and dairies of moving to sorghum silage and this will certainly give producers some insurance coverage there that will help them to continue to move in that direction.”
Lust says another helpful change is the new trend adjustment that affects several counties in north central and northeast Oklahoma.
“It’s something new for 2013 for the sorghum community and it’s not in all counties. It’s in scattered counties around the United States. But in a lot of north central Oklahoma it’s a really nice advantage for. Depending on the county there’s various trend-adjustment factors, but really allows a farmer to go back in his ten-year APH and if it makes sense it allows him in some cases to raise those further out years, or further back years, by five to 15 bushels an acre. And, so, it really helps from a coverage standpoint for some producers from areas where it’s offered.”
Another positive development for sorghum growers has been the announcement of sorghum’s approval as a feed stock for advanced biofuels. Lust says it is a very important development.
“It certainly matters because in order to qualify for different levels of the RFS, a feedstock has to be approved. So, we’ve unfortunately been sitting here for two-and-a-half years where other feed stocks were approved and we were kind of in ‘no man’s land.’ So it’s an important announcement. The 32-percent reduction that they came out with itself is just a conventional biofuel, it does provide in the rule opportunities for ethanol plants to make adjustments in their process to make them greener, reduce carbon emissions and by doing that they can produce advanced biofuels.
“This is really exciting for us because it provides the opportunity for the U.S. to meet a lot of that advanced biofuels demand that today is being met with imports of sugar cane ethanol from Brazil. So it allows us to provide a domestic feed stock to be used to grow domestic production of advanced biofuels to meet the RFS and, ultimately, back to the grower level that means increased marketing opportunities and hopefully prices for our growers.”
He says Oklahoma growers are particularly encouraged about the RFS 2 and grain sorghum because some high-forage-yielding varieties do so well in the state. Demand for sorghum seed worldwide is increasing, Lust says, so producers who wish to take advantage of this opportunity need to be aware and book seed purchases early.
Click on the LISTEN BAR below to hear Ron Hays’s full interview with Tim Lust.
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