By Scott Shiels

As we rode through the summer on the COVID-19 wave, one thing is for certain, agriculture seems to be the one area that was least affected by this global pandemic. With you all in the business of feeding the world, and that world acting differently than ever before, it has become more apparent than ever that farmers really are the most essential service worldwide.

Because of the way that consumers were forced to eat and shop due to the lack of restaurant options for a few months, the oat industry definitely was a beneficiary. People around the world were forced to eat more meals at home, and when looking to stock their pantries, staples like oatmeal and granola bars sold out nearly as fast as the toilet paper. Demand for oat products has remained high right through this entire situation. While we know that this may not continue at the same pace, even a slight sustained increase in oat demand is good for farmers and millers alike.

This increase in demand took its toll on North American oat supplies last year, to the point that it put us in the lowest carryout in decades. With stocks being this low, even the large acreage, and great looking oat crop on those acres, is not going to replenish those stocks this year. In fact, with milling capacity growing, not only with Grain Millers, but others as well, this tight supply and demand situation has the potential to keep oat prices up for years to come.

Oats used to be perceived as more of a last resort when seeding got late and you had acres to cover yet, but more often than not now, oats are being seeded earlier on more farms, and are looked at as a good cash crop. There is a very strong local milling industry across the Prairies in Canada and through the Midwest south of the border. For farmers in parts of Saskatchewan, oats are a staple in the rotation, much like they are in your pantry. With yields being pushed higher and higher, and new varieties becoming available that fight off disease and compete better to help with weed pressure, oats have proven to be a lucrative crop for most farmers.

With more and more opportunities like oat milk and gluten-free products expanding on the store shelves, now is a great time for you to look at getting into growing oats, or increasing the oat acres that you currently grow. The reality is that your bottom line can benefit from growing this heart-healthy crop on your farm.

Until next time…