Twice a year, the National Sorghum Producers make a fly-in to Washington D.C. to make sure representatives and ag committee members in Congress stay in touch with people from their group that make their livings through ag production. These are actual farmers and growers that are affected by the policies they put in place. And Tim Lust, executive officer of the National Sorghum Producers based right here in Lubbock, said that their group was well represented on a national level.
"It was a great opportunity to take actual producers back to Washington D.C.", Lust said. "I think we had about 20 growers from 9 different states go back with us. It's just a good opportunity to walk the halls of Congress and sit down with the agencies that work with agriculture on a regular basis and just make sure that they know the sorghum industry's priorities."
Those 20 sorghum growers attending, plus members of the National Sorghum Producers Board had the chance to sit down with several representatives to discuss what is working for farmers, and also what is not working.
"Kansas and Texas remain two of our really large critical states, so our Senator Roberts and Senator Moran from Kansas and then closer to home, Congressman Conaway and Congressman Neugebauer are certainly locally here very important on the agriculture committee and then Chairman Frank Lucas is from Oklahoma and very important, too," Lust said.
The USDA Risk Management Association was another group the National Sorghum Producers visited. Their main topic of conversation was T-yields concerning crop insurance and how they are limiting new West Texas producers wanting to grow sorghum.
"Obviously a strong farm bill component for the next five years is something that's very important to us," Lust said. "Specifically to sorghum, there are some insurance changes that need to be made and so we visited with RMA about those changes and continue to look at what we can do to make some improvements in sorghum crop insurance."
Staying informed of new EPA standards for ethanol production was another big interest for the group.
"Renewable Fuel Standard is something that is very important to sorghum and the opportunity now for our ethanol plants to produce advanced biofuels which will create additional demand for sorghum," Lust said.
And just when can we see big movements in terms of getting a new, five-year farm bill in place before the current extension expires in September? Uncertainty remains according to Lust.
"I think when you look at it today about half the groups and half the people we visited with were optimistic that a farm bill would get done this summer, and about half the groups were pretty pessimistic that we could be in another situation that we've kind of been in over the last two years," Lust said. "So a lot of unknowns still related to a long term farm bill."
The good news is that ag producers right here at home can make a difference.
"Just reach out to us," Lust said. "Certainly we always look for opportunities to have new growers and new leaders involved and have a very open process in incorporating them in with veterans that have been there and done it before."
Lust said that producers wanting to get more involved in farm policy should visit their website at www.sorghumgrowers.com or come by for a visit at their national office.