Price is the driving factor behind planting decisions according to Chris Cogburn with the National Sorghum Producers. And we've seen grain prices all over the board the last six months, ranging from attention-grabbing highs to not so impressive numbers. But there are other facts that farmers weigh like water availability and crop rotation. Sorghum numbers in this area will still be up.
"I would say in January we were looking at maybe a 400,000 acre increase. But since January, sorghum prices have come down a little bit, cotton prices have increased, so now we're looking at maybe 125,000 or 150,000 acre increase just because of the change in prices. That's what markets do," Cogburn said. "I mean the market was wanting more cotton, so the market bid up for cotton. But we'll still see some acres increase from sorghum."
Some sorghum acres on the High Plains were even forward contracted back when grain markets made making a profit look likely. But those acres are the minority rather than the majority.
"We had some producers forward contract, and so those producers are in good shape. They've got their prices locked in," Cogburn said. "But you don't see a lot of forward contracting in this part of the world because most of the production is dry land. When you don't have irrigation on it, it's hard to forward contract those bushels because you don't know if you're going to make those bushels."
Another plus for producers around here is that Diamond Ethanol in Levelland wants all the local sorghum they can get.
"It's back up and going and just from talking to farmers and bankers, a lot of people don't know it's up and going," Cogburn said. "They know it shut down, and then even if they know it's up and going they think it's just the same people that had it. But it's not. It's a completely different ownership group and they seem to be really wanting to work with producers and work with the local economy in Levelland to make it work."
And as producers fill their planters with whatever crop seed they've chosen, all of the parched farm land could use a drink of water.
"As far as advice for sorghum producers, I think the key is watch your planting rates, don't get too thick, and we just need it to rain," Cogburn said.