MANHATTAN, Kan. — In April, the Kansas Department of Agriculture hosted a trade mission to South Africa to attend the Sorghum in the 21st Century Conference: Food, Feed and Fuel in a Rapidly Changing World. Sorghum is a key export crop for Kansas farmers, totaling $515 million over the last three years.
The team representing Kansas on the trade mission included Jeff Allen of Sharp Bros. Seed Company; Martin Kerschen of Team Kerschen Farms; Earl Roemer of Nu Life Market; Sarah Sexton-Bowser of Bowser Farms; Josh Roe, KDA deputy secretary; and Kerry Wefald and Suzanne Ryan-Numrich, members of KDA’s agriculture advocacy, marketing and outreach team.
The conference allowed the group to interact with more than 400 sorghum breeders, researchers, sorghum seed companies and universities from 40 different countries around the world. Roemer was a featured speaker on the topic of grain sorghum use in functional food and beverages, representing Nu Life Market.
“Bright minds are dedicating their lives to science for sorghum. The talent pipeline for novel sorghum discoveries is robust,” said Sexton-Bowser. “As a farmer, I am excited to see the global momentum translate to results in my field.”
The trade mission served to identify potential new end uses for sorghum which translate to new global opportunities for Kansas’ sorghum farmers and agribusinesses. Global trade is a key economic engine of U.S. agriculture and rural America, including Kansas. Over the past three years, Kansas has exported nearly $62 million in agricultural commodities to South Africa, primarily cereal grains.
“The trip definitely changed my outlook on sorghum breeding and how other countries manage their breeding programs,” said Allen. “I met a lot of new contacts that will help us in the future both in the U.S. and abroad. The opportunity to represent my company at this event was very rewarding and to hear how we as a seed company can help other countries with their seed needs in the future is always exciting for us.”
The trade mission was sponsored by KDA and funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration using a State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) grant.