Arkansas Farmers Growing Oats For Small, Out-Of-State Markets

LITTLE ROCK, ARK.
   Farmers in a state whose acres are dominated by soybeans, rice, corn and cotton have carved out a few acres to serve a niche market. 
Extension wheat and feed grains agronomist of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, Jason Kelley said the percentage of oats grown in Arkansas is very minimal. 
   “We do plant a few oats, although on limited acreage,” he said. “We harvested approximately 8,000 acres last year in Arkansas.”
Keith Perkins, Lonoke county staff chair for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said he has only a few growers with oats.
   “I do have some growers with oats,” Perkins said, “but just a couple.” 
   Although some Arkansas producers grow oats, it has very few uses in the state. 
   “I believe most will go to Texas for livestock forage in the fall or for cattle and horse feed. They may also be a main seed found in wildlife food plot mixes.” Kelley said. “Currently oats are a niche market. The major grain buyers on the Mississippi River typically do not buy oats.” 
   Because the demand for oats is not very high, many growers only grow them because of contracts with seed companies. Oat acreage is usually concentrated around these companies, as most of them are local. 
   “With a limited local market, most oats are grown under a contract with a local seed company,” Kelley said. “Most of the oats are in the Hazen, Stuttgart area and Ashley County in southeast Arkansas.” 
   With these contracts, oats offer Arkansas farmers the opportunity for a little extra income. 
   “I don’t know this year’s prices for contracts, but with a good yield, the producer should be able to make some money,” Kelley said, “and the straw after harvest could also be baled and sold.”
   Perkins said, similar to wheat, it all comes down to what is economically best for the grower. 
   “With oats or wheat, you have to look at production costs,” Perkins said, “just like any other crop.” 
   According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, 2.588 million acres of oats were planted in the United States in 2017, with just 801,000 acres harvested. In 2018, U.S. producers planted 2.71 million acres. 
   South Dakota produces the most oats in the U.S. followed by Wisconsin and North Dakota. ∆

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