26,200 farms across U.S. grow crop for grain, USDA says

By MATTHEW WEAVER

Capital Press

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will conduct a referendum to determine whether to continue the sorghum checkoff program.

The checkoff is a nationally coordinated program designed to strengthen sorghum's position in the market place, said Sam Jones-Ellard, public affairs specialist for the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service.

The program works to maintain and expand domestic and foreign markets and to develop new markets and uses.

Sorghum producers contribute to the mandatory program at rates of 0.6 percent of the net market value on grain sorghum and 0.35 percent of the net market value of sorghum forage.

The referendum will take place through Feb. 28 at local Farm Service Agency offices for producers and at the marketing service office for importers.

Jones-Ellard said the program requires a referendum three years after the start of assessments, which began in July 2008.

"If it continues, things will continue to go on," Jones-Ellard told the Capital Press. "Should the referendum not pass, the program would no longer exist."

According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, there are roughly 26,200 farms raising sorghum for grain in the United States, including 58 in California and three in Oregon. According to the USDA Farm Service Agency, there are at least three farmers in Washington growing sorghum, and also producers in Idaho.

Two farms in Oregon and 195 in California are growing sorghum for silage or green chop, according to the census.

The program and its 13-member board is authorized by the Commodity Promotion, Research and Information Act of 1996.

Information

Contact marketing service livestock and seed program chief Kenneth Payne at 202-720-1115.

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