Oats provided Minnesota farmer most profitable crop ever in 2022
Martin Larsen is part of a group of farmers in southeast Minnesota who are pooling their resources to better market their food-grade oats. He spoke at the 2023 Agweek Farm Show.
ROCHESTER, Minn. — Oats was Martin Larsen’s most profitable crop in 2022. In fact, he says his 2022 oats crop was his most profitable crop ever.
“So in 2022, we had a phenomenal market here,” Larsen said, noting that the 2021 drought had meant millers were short of oats. “So we could lock in a $7-plus (per bushel) oat. And another factor for us came into play and that's that we had our highest yielding year since I've been growing — phenomenal yield here. So we had high yield and high price, which makes for a very high profit.”
Larsen isn’t expecting 2023 to be a repeat. Those great growing conditions from 2022 meant a good crop for lots of oats growers. While there was very little carryover from 2021, the carryover from the 2022 crop will likely temper oats prices in 2023.
Larsen spoke about growing oats and a budding oats marketing group in southeast Minnesota on Tuesday, March 7, at the first day of the Agweek Farm Show in Rochester. The show continues Wednesday, March 8.
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One of his main points is that the value of oats isn’t in just the crop itself. It’s the yield bump that he gets in his corn and soybeans by adding oats to the rotation, as well as the benefit that oats brings with improved water quality around his Byron, Minnesota, farm.
“It's not something that we can hold in our hands like a bushel of oats,” Larsen, who also works for the Olmsted County Soil and Water Conservation District, said of water quality. “But it is very valuable.”
Explaining how adding small grains like oats to a crop rotation to improve sustainability is a story that farmers need to be able to tell to consumers.
And if oats can help keep smaller farms such as his profitable, that benefits the whole ag economy and the community. Adding oats might mean investing in some new and different pieces of equipment.
“So it's supporting the local implement dealer and it's keeping their business profitable,” Larsen said. “And it's keeping our small, moderate, medium-sized farmers in business so that our schools are successful, local communities are successful and that they last for long into the future.”
Oats also are a way to spread out workload, combat weeds and pests, and hedge against late-season drought, with oats already being in the bin.
Part of the reason for Larsen’s yield success, in 2022 is that it’s only been in recent years that he has been investing more time, attention and money into the crop for increased bushels and to better test weight.
A group of farmers in the Byron area have formed an oats marketing group , securing storage and a grain cleaner. With the grain cleaner, they can consistently achieve high enough test weights to achieve food-grade oats and the price premium, usually about $1 per bushel, that comes with it.
For farmers interested in adding oats into their crop rotation, Larsen offers this advice.
“Do the market research around in your area so that you know you have a buyer. Focus on planting early, putting enough seeds out there — plant heavy. And know how you're going to harvest. Know that harvesting oats may be somewhat different from your corn and soybean crop, but we can come up with the same combine, the same bean head and learn how to do that.”