Having straw to sell this summer has turned into a golden opportunity for some farmers.
With fears there could be a scarcity, prices have surged into record territory.
Some farmers with good stands of wheat report they had people knocking on their door before harvest to see if they were willing to sell.
Typically the highest prices in the past have reached five to six cents a pound. Most years it has been in the range of three and a half to four cents. A decade ago the price would have been about two cents a pound, he said.
This year wheat straw has been selling from six to 10 cents. Before harvest some wheat straw was going for as much as 20 cents a pound at auction, making straw worth more than the grain.
Johnson termed the situation insane.
“That’s wrong, it’s just wrong, but hey, if people will pay for it, drive on and have a nice day,” he said.
Johnson said the high straw prices have been driven by concerns there would be a shortage after reduced winter wheat acres and a tough winter in many areas resulted in thin stands.
The big demand for straw has come from the dairy sector, which uses straw in feed rations.
“Straw is good fibre and there are not a lot of other sources for them from that standpoint,” said Johnson.
There has also been demand for Ontario straw from the New York dairy industry and farmers in the Eastern Seaboard.
Beef farmers who use straw for bedding can usually switch to baling corn stalks, but this spring’s wet field conditions made that option difficult.
“That just added to the demand,” Johnson said.
The high prices pose a challenge for the mushroom industry, which uses straw as a substrate on which to grow mushrooms.
“That is tough for them to make it work at those prices, really they can’t. It is out of their price range,” he said.