Years of Work Finally Pays Off

Cluster of sorghum Photo Credit: Hailey Gilbreath

Imagine spending endless days and nights striving towards a goal. Then one day the phone rings and before you can say ‘hello’ the voice on the other end of the line says ‘congratulations!’

Tim Lust, CEO at National Sorghum Producers, received the phone call of a lifetime. He then was able to spread the news with the rest of the NSP office and let them know their hard work has paid off. They were awarded a $65 million grant from U.S. Department of Agriculture Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities Program.

John Duff, who worked for NSP and United Sorghum Checkoff Program for 10 years before starting his own consulting company, Serō Ag Strategies. During the grant application process, Duff served as a strategy consultant for NSP. He recalls the excitement of their office environment.

“There are several of us in the office who have devoted our entire careers to this crop,” Duff said. “It was just validation to what we have been working on and kind of a reward for all our efforts to this.”

The Extensive Process

Duff discusses how extensive the process was to work up to applying for this grant. NSP based all their ideas around how sorghum can be more sustainable. In 2010, NSP found that about one-third of the footprint of a gallon of ethanol involves what happens on the actual farm, such as the amount of fuel and pesticides used.

NSP then became really involved in getting more data which Duff led in 2014. For seven years, that is what they worked on – finding more data, after data, after data. They would find that one piece of data was more important than the other, so then they would have to go back and figure out what else they needed. It came down to the crop yield and how much nitrogen was split down, and what the tillage practices were and many other aspects.

“We started to hear talk that there will be a big program in 2021,” Duff said, “We wrote our program all around creating data, building out that the data framework to collect that information on the farm, and then ultimately get farmers compensated in sustainability markets for those practices they are doing that reduce the carbon intensity of crop production.”

All this time and dedication to collecting data and performing research led to NSP applying for the grant in 2022. A few months later they were awarded.

“This [sorghum] industry our size doesn’t get those kinds of big opportunities like that, it was a really neat day,” Duff said.