Three teams of oat millers, growers and researchers were in Washington last week to lobby politicians for more funding for oat research.

“It was a great opportunity to advocate for the oat industry,” said Rick Cole of General Mills, Inc of Minneapolis, one member of the group.

“Basic research in oats has not kept pace with research in other crops,” the North American Millers Association, which hosted the lobbying effort, said in a statement. “As a consequence, oat production has become less economically viable relative to other production options.”

“In 2004, the 145 million bushels (2.1 million tonnes) of oats produced in the U.S. contributed to the production of more than $2.5 billion in food, feed, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, sweeteners and industrial products generating hundreds of millions of dollars in tax income,” NAMA said. “Despite the steady decline in oat production in this country, the food use of oats has been growing at about 5% per year due to the unique nutritional benefits provided by oat products for human food,” it said.

With no private commercial oat breeding programmes in the US, continued federal investment was needed to sustain research. “Current federal investment in oat research is less than $4.6 million per year, so the returns from this modest federal investment in oat research far exceed the expenditure,” it said. “To remain a viable crop, progress in oat improvement must be sustained. Federal support is essential to this progress.”