NAMA Seeks to Reverse Decline in U.S. Oat ProductionFebruary 26, 2003
CONTACT: Jim Bair
Pictured from left to right are participants in NAMA’s oat research lobbying effort. John Bollingberg, North Dakota grower; Jim Bair, NAMA; Rick Cole, General Mills; Greg Shaner, Purdue University; Fred Kolb, University of Illinois; Paul Murphy, North Carolina State University; Deon Stuthmen, University of Illinois; Mike McMullen, North Dakota State University; and Rick Schwein, Grain Millers, Inc. Not pictured: Gordon Brockmueller, South Dakota grower.
Washington, DC – February 26, 2003 – The North American Millers’ Association (NAMA) is calling on Congress to help reverse the downward trend in U.S. oat production. In a cooperative effort, NAMA is hosting oat growers and researchers in Washington, DC February 26 –27 to jointly advocate increased federal funding for oat research.
“The last two years were the smallest oat crops in U.S. history, since USDA began keeping records in 1870,” said John Gillcrist, NAMA chairman. “That forces millers to look all over the world to find oats – 134 million bushels were imported in 2001. We don’t think depending on imports to satisfy the growing demand for a wholesome staple food is in the long-term best interests of the U.S.”
U.S. oat production in 2002 was a mere 119 million bushels, down from a high of 1.5 billion in 1945 and down from 358 million bushels as recently as 1990. That 119 million bushels produced more than $2.5 billion in food, feed, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, sweeteners and industrial products, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue.
The 2003 federal investment in oat research is less than $4.2 million. That compares with $51.2 million, $41.9 million and $31.3 million in federally funded corn, wheat and soybean research, respectively. Additionally, there are huge private research investments for the other grains, but not in oats.
Per acre yields in oats have increased an average of 1.9 percent per year since 1870, compared with yield increases of 3.6, 2.7 and 4.8 percent per year for corn, wheat and soybeans, respectively. (USDA has kept soybean records since 1930).
“Milled oat products are a heart-healthy, essential food. Oats are also an environmentally sustainable crop option for growers,” Gillcrist continued. “Our goal is to improve the economic returns of growing oats so that more farmers will include oats in their production decisions. To do that, progress in oat improvement must be sustained, and federal support for that research is essential.”