This month, Ontario oat and barley growers are voting to decide whether or not they will join the over 28,000 corn, soybean, and wheat farmers in being represented by Grain Farmers of Ontario.
*Update: Grain Farmers of Ontario members voted, and decided in July 2015 that the organization would also represent barley and oat growers.
Oats and barley are two growing crops in Ontario with a wide variety of primarily food-uses. Oats aren’t just for oatmeal; oat flour has dozens of baking applications, and oats also make high quality animal feed. Barley also appears in plenty of baked goods, and barley flakes can be eaten cooked like rolled oats—and of course, barley malt, made by soaking and drying barley kernels is a key ingredient in the production of beer!
Most oat and barley farmers also grow corn, soybeans, or wheat, in which case they are already members of the organization; however, there are many others that would be joining the organization for the first time. This is a great opportunity for an explanation of what Grain Farmers of Ontario does, and the services it offers to member farmers.
When a farmer sells her corn, soybeans, or wheat crops to a dealer, she also has to pay a license fee (currently set at $1.75/acre, which is converted to a rate per metric tonne based on the average yield that season) to Grain Farmers of Ontario. The revenue earned from collecting license fees is invested in services like research, market development, and advocacy for grain farmers.
But what about oat and barley crops grown for on-farm use, such as animal feed? Grain Farmers of Ontario estimates that only about half of all oats and barley grown in Ontario is ever sold. In the case of oats and barley grown for on-farm use, there is never any license fee collected.
Grain Farmers of Ontario hopes that by including oat and barley farmers it can invest in research that will lead to better yields for these crops, develop new markets for oats and barley, and advocate for appropriate risk management programs and other issues of public policy to support growers.