The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

April 6, 2013

Planting its roots in Enid

Canola plant officials looking to locals for help to grow

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Enid has been chosen as the site of a new canola plant, and company officials are reaching out to Enid and area residents to make use of the plant for storage.

“We want to engage with the agriculture community, elevator managers and grain dealers, especially reference the canola plant,” said Neil Juhnke, president of Northstar Agriculture, which owns the plant. Juhnke hopes the area will develop up to one to two million acres of canola in the area.

A rising star

Northstar is owned by PICO Industries, which is the major investor. Northstar Founders group owns 12 percent of the plant. The original group is from North Dakota and South Dakota. PICO invited the Northstar Founders to invest, and they are asking Oklahoma farmers and ranchers to also consider investing, as well.

The plant in Enid will be the company’s second; Northstar also has a canola plant in Minnesota. Juhnke said there are between 12 and 14 canola processing plants operated by companies in the United States and Canada, and that number is growing.

He said canola is growing in popularity because its main product, canola oil, is healthy: It is low in saturated fat and even lowers the risk of cancer, according to some recent studies. Some large cities in California and New York passed ordinances banning trans fats — which contribute to heart disease — in foods, helping bring about the growth of canola oil in cooking.

“It’s driven by health,” Juhnke said.

Water, water everywhere ...

Designed as a low water consumption plant, projections are it will use 500,000 gallons of water per day and return 100,000 gallons of wastewater.

The plant also will manufacture dry product and have an oil seed process.

Enid was selected primarily because of its proximity to the majority of canola production in the area. That area extends into Kansas and southwest Oklahoma. A secondary reason is water availability in the area.

“Outside of Oklahoma City not many communities have it,” Juhnke said.

Another reason is Enid’s access to transportation, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe main rail line.

The city of Enid passed a tax increment finance district to help plant construction, which Juhnke said “leveled the playing field.”

A part of a community

Along with the canola plant there is the potential for other tenants that would benefit from the loop railroad track that will be on the property. Part of the company strategy is to interest area investors. If an individual has the opportunity to invest in a product, it creates a unifying factor, he said. Juhnke said he is encouraged by the interest expressed.

His philosophy is to partner with canola growers and investors. For example, AdancePierre Foods exclusively uses canola oil in its products. Juhnke hope to develop an agreement with them for purchase of canola.

Canola’s price has made it the No. 1 crop in Canada, he said. As a broadleaf plant, canola uses moisture efficiently, and farmers can grow it with the same equipment they use for wheat. They also can use different herbicides and clean up weed problems in their fields.