Jessie McCurry with Kansas Grain Sorghum

(Jesse McCurry) Had a recent opportunity to make a change. This has been somewhat in the works from a number of perspectives for a while, where the Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association Board and the Kansas Grain Sorghum Commission Board started to cooperate more frequently and more often and in a structured kind of way. It became apparent that there needed to be a hire for a full-time Executive Director position, somewhat modeled off of what wheat and other states have done in sorghum. Many commodity groups have done a similar format, and it seems to work generally well. I was at the spot where I could jump on the opportunity and was fortunate to be chosen. I’ll start at the first of the year. I have had the great luxury of working for a national organization here for a little over three years with National Sorghum Producers and the Sorghum Checkoff. That has given me exposure to tools and resources, contacts, being able to work internationally, as well as in Washington DC, to have the ability to step in very quickly on issues. That’s a big part of it, understanding how to tee up, and leverage, and research, and work with others to get our issues advanced. We have a number of folks who do that very well already. I was able to learn from that at the national level and kind of regroup a bit to my state experience. I’ve spent a little time in Topeka with our board chairman and our, certain farmers that are in office in Topeka, including some leadership elections that recently happened. We’re well positioned to be effectively represented, particularly given the water discussions and other things in the state. Sorghum has no shortage of challenges from the sugarcane aphid and from markets. What this is really trying to put in play is a number of pieces. First of all, you saw the move at K-State, where Sarah Sexton-Bowser was hired to lead this Collaborative Sorghum Improvement Program. This piece of it is the exact level at the state, working cooperatively with our national organizations, trying to build out our membership base. A lot of this has to do with pushing the envelope on research and trying to find better technology more frequently into the crop and markets and trying to develop better markets. Communication is a big part of this as well, working together collaboratively for sorghum. Then the political environment that we can’t ignore as well, both at the state and the national level, to make sure we’re comprehensively putting our best foot forward as a crop. We are still living through one of the most amazing periods of time politically that any of us have ever seen in our lifetime. I think seeing where individuals are ultimately placed and serve at the national and the state level in terms of appointments, leadership elections, the inauguration of a new president-elect, I think there’s a lot of uncertainty about trade. I think there’s a lot of opportunity around regulation in trying to roll back some of the barriers that have existed in our crop and in agriculture generally, and to just meet the players and make sure that we’re putting our best foot forward. Whoever, ultimately, is picked at whatever level, agriculture is going to be effectively represented, and sorghum will certainly be part of that mix.

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