The federal government’s approval of sorghum oil as an eligible feedstock under the Renewable Fuel Standard a welcome move during a difficult trade environment.

With the uncertainty swirling around trade negotiations with China, it was good to see progress somewhere this week as EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler approved sorghum oil as an eligible feedstock under the Renewable Fuel Standard.

National Sorghum Producers says it’s a significant step toward leveling the playing field for ethanol plants extracting oil from sorghum.

“NSP has worked for more than 2 years on establishing a biofuels pathway for sorghum oil and this announcement opens new markets for ethanol plants extracting oil from sorghum and ultimately adds value to the grain farmers produce,” says NSP chairman Don Bloss, a sorghum farmer from Pawnee City, Neb.

EPA analysis shows biodiesel produced from sorghum oil has greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions savings of 82%. This will give ethanol plants extracting oil from sorghum access to sell into the biodiesel market.

In addition to the nine ethanol producers already extracting oil from sorghum, several other facilities will now be able to purchase and use sorghum. The pathway also makes possible additional investments in fuel infrastructure in the Sorghum Belt.

Admittedly, things haven’t been great for sorghum farmers this year. Reuters reported this week that China’s sorghum imports jumped 38% in June compared to 2017 levels after China dropped its short-lived 178% tariff, but July and August numbers may fall sharply due to Beijing imposing a new 25% tariff this month on U.S. grains in retaliation for President Trump’s tariffs on imported Chinese aluminum and steel.

The Trump administration on Tuesday announced up to $12 billion in emergency aid to farmers facing tariffs in China, Mexico and other countries that imposed the levies on U.S. products in response to Trump’s new tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.

The new package doesn’t not need approval from Congress. It would include direct payments to farmers, efforts to promote U.S. goods abroad and an expansion of a program that purchases surplus farm output and distributes it to food banks and other anti-hunger programs.

If you’re raising sorghum, the concern looming over trade markets is understandable. But the truth is China has been importing nearly all of its sorghum from the U.S. and it’s being used for premium products.

Resolving a $360 billion trade deficit with a country the size of China will take some time. Our country’s leaders have been kicking this can down the road for a very long time and the bill is coming due now.

While there is some short-term pain right now, sorghum is a versatile crop and it still enjoys a bright future, as this EPA news illustrates.