The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Opinion

January 14, 2013

Enid ... where the waving canola can smell very sweet

ENID, Okla. — The proposed Northstar Agri Industries canola processing plant was the topic du jour of the Enid Regional Development Alliance’s quarterly meeting last week.

The ERDA helped broker a proposed Tax Increment Finance district that would generate as much as $27 million in incentives for the plant over 25 years.

Estimates for the plant investment range from $150 million to $250 million, with TIF compensation ranging from $12 million to no more than $15 million.

Under the terms of the proposal, 90 percent of the increased ad valorem taxes from the TIF district would go toward Northstar’s investment compensation, counterbalancing the city of Enid for infrastructure improvements and interest on both counts.

This exciting investment is a good deal, and it’s based on good science.

Canola is an ideal crop to rotate with our traditional wheat, according to The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation Inc. The broadleaf provides opportunity to clean up grassy weeds and boasts a deeper taproot to mellow and loosen soil.

“Canola has the lowest levels of saturated fat among cooking oils, and no trans fat,” Sharon Robinson, a Texas A&M Extension nutrition specialist, told Southwest Farm Press. “It is rich in Vitamin E and essential fatty acids, nutrients needed to help maintain human health. It has more Vitamin E than peanut, corn or olive oil.”

Neil Juhnke, president and COO of Northstar Agri Industries, said the United States annually consumes 7-8 million acres worth of canola, but only 1.2-1.7 million acres of canola are grown in the U.S. each year. Most of the current U.S. consumption comes from Canadian-grown canola.

Juhnke said the southern Great Plains has the capacity to grow 1.6 million acres of canola per year.

He said if 15 percent of wheat acres in western Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas were transitioned to a canola rotation, it would add 815,000 new acres of canola and meet the supply demand for the proposed Northstar plant east of Enid.

Annually, the Enid plant will be able to process 28 million bushels of canola into 580 million pounds of oil and 450,000 tons of meal that can be utilized for livestock feed.

The canola plant is projected to employ 55 workers, with an annual payroll of $3.75 million. Meanwhile, other industry interested in building near the plant could benefit from the loop rail system to be privately maintained by Northstar.

Juhnke told about 200 attendees he feels welcome in the Enid community. Our work ethic made him feel at home in Garfield County.

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