Saturday, August 30, 2014

Farmer exports grain expertise

By ABBY ECKEL, Herald Staff Writer | 10/16/2013

QUENEMO — To know what you’re buying, you need to see where it’s coming from, Jeff Casten said.

That’s true for Americans — both above and below the Equator.

QUENEMO — To know what you’re buying, you need to see where it’s coming from, Jeff Casten said.

That’s true for Americans — both above and below the Equator.

A group of grain buyers from Latin America arrived Wednesday at Casten’s farm in Quenemo to get a closer look and better understanding of where grain sorghum originates, as well as how it’s raised and harvested, he said.

“These people are grain buyers from South America, Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru and Columbia, and they buy grain to put in their feed for the poultry,” he said. “They’re here looking at how the grain they buy from us is grown, how we treat the land, how we treat the wheat and grain, how it’s harvested and processed before it goes on the ship and goes to them.”

The U.S. Grains Council sponsors the team of buyers to travel to the United States in a bid to enhance their interests in sourcing U.S. grains and co-products for livestock, pork and poultry feed needs, Casten said.

Though the team of buyers can’t buy wheat sorghum directly from him, Casten said, they still can see where it comes from.

“They have to buy from major grain companies on a huge basis,” he said. “They get shipments of grain in 85 million bushels at a time, so I can’t as an individual sell to them because I don’t have enough to supply them.”

Grain sorghum is mainly used in feed for poultry and swine because of its high protein content and because it’s slightly cheaper than corn, he said.

“Grain sorghum has been used as a feed for livestock in western Kansas a lot,” Casten said. “Kansas grows more grain sorghum than any state in the country, and has for a number of years.”

The team of buyers didn’t have much time on Casten’s farm, he said, as they were only allotted two hours to tour the land and ask questions.

“They had an introduction once they got off the bus and a box lunch, then time to ask any questions,” he said. “Then out in the field we looked at how the sorghum is grown. I was hoping to have the combine going, and had it not rained we would have so they could see how we get the grain out of the field and into the bin.”

The United Sorghum Checkoff Program and the U.S. Grains Council work together to help bring foreign markets to the U.S., he said. Any grain sorghum farmer in America has to contribute a small percentage of his grain profit to the United Sorghum Checkoff Program to help promote grain sorghum in foreign markets, he said.

“Every time a local farmer like me hauls a truck load of milo, or grain sorghum, into the elevator, when we dump it a small percent comes out of that check to me and I voluntarily give that up and that’s going into a larger fund with everybody else that sells grain sorghum,” he said. “Members of the board from the Kansas Grain Commission use that money to promote, education, research and foreign and domestic market development on behalf of all farmers.”

Casten has played host to buying groups for many years, he said, but without the help of the money the U.S. Grains Council uses to bring buyers to the U.S., he wouldn’t be able to do it on his own.

“If I cooperate and voluntarily give my funds through this check-off system in place, we can gather lots of people and lots of dollars,” he said. “If you get a lot of dollars, you can make something happen on behalf of everyone that grows that crop. We can do together what we can’t do by ourselves.”

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