The U.S. Canola Association (USCA) works to support and advance U.S. canola production, marketing, processing and use through government and industry relations. Since it was first established in 1989, the association has helped domestic canola acreage grow from virtually zero to about 2 million. It strives to:
- Develop and implement agricultural policies that provide competitive conditions for U.S. canola production, including uniform seed and product standards and regulations, eligibility for federal crop insurance and other farm programs.
- Promote efficient production of the crop through farmer education programs, crop protection product registration for canola and agronomic research addressing domestic canola production.
- Develop markets for U.S. canola products through activities aimed at the agricultural sector and consumers, including promotion of nutrition research on canola oil and meal. When appropriate, the USCA will work with outside groups to achieve common objective.
The USCA is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and overseen by a board of directors that represents all industry segments, including 10 growers from four regions and up to 15 industry representatives.
The USCA was established in June 1989, three years after canola oil was granted generally recognized as safe (GRAS) status by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). An organizational meeting was held in Washington, D.C., attended by interested producers and representatives of oilseed processors, seed companies and food product manufacturers. They decided to create a national trade association to promote canola as a viable commercial crop in the United States. The founding stakeholders and other original USCA board members included producers and companies from various regions where there was interest in initiating or expanding canola production.
The original goals of the USCA were to remove existing obstacles to U.S. canola production. In 1989, these obstacles included restrictions on planting non-program crops, on-program crop acreage bases and the lack of farm program benefits for canola. They also included the ineligibility of canola for federal crop insurance and the absence of federal funding for canola production research. Finally, canola had only three U.S. registrations for crop protection products in 1989, compared to over 30 in Canada.
The USCA has largely succeeded in overcoming these obstacles. The 1990 Farm Bill opened up program crop base acres to production of minor oilseeds without penalty, while maintaining 92 percent of income deficiency payments. The 1990 act also authorized price support marketing loan programs for minor oilseeds for the first time. A pilot crop insurance program was initiated for canola in 1993, which became nationwide in 1996. Also in 1993, Congress agreed to appropriate funds for the National Canola Research Program, which supports production and agronomic research projects approved by regional committees of state land grant university researchers and industry members. Funding for this program has averaged $1 million annually, totaling than $20 million to date.
The 1996 Farm Bill eliminated all program crop planting restrictions and increased minor oilseed loan rates relative to those of other crops. Both of these changes contributed to the increase in canola acreage when crop prices fell after late 1997. In addition, the USCA worked with other oilseed organizations to achieve equity for canola with other oilseeds under federal farm programs when the 2002 Farm Bill restored crop acreage bases to provide income support without re-instituting planting restrictions. These efforts continued during the 2008 Farm Bill.
In the 2014 Farm Bill, the USCA successfully advocated for a $20.15 cwt reference price for canola. As a result, producers with canola base acres have received $238 million in price support payments for the 2014-17 crop years. The 2018 Farm Bill retains the canola reference price at the 2014 level.
Expansion of crop insurance coverage to the Southern Great Plains and other growing regions was achieved in 2006 through the “similar crops” amendment attached to the FY2006 Agriculture Appropriations bill. This amendment changed the federal crop insurance statute to allow the Risk Management Agency to provide written agreements to producers in counties that did not have policies for canola at that time.
Moreover, the USCA worked successfully to maintain crop protection product registrations for canola, shift emergency registrations to permanent status and gain approval of additional products available in Canada. More recently, it successfully petitioned the United States Environmental Protection Agency to include biodiesel produced from canola oil when it was initially excluded in the 2010 Renewable Fuel Standard program. It is working to expand RFS eligibility in 2022 to include canola oil-based renewable diesel .
The USCA has raised public awareness of the health benefits of canola oil, most notably by petitioning the FDA in January 2006 for a qualified health claim for canola oil. In October, the FDA approved this claim based on the oil’s ability to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to its high unsaturated fat content. Canola oil bottlers and makers of eligible products can label their products with this claim per FDA’s guidelines. Leading up to the petition, the USCA submitted comments to the 2005 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee and Food Guide Pyramid Reassessment Team as well as met with FDA officials about types of dietary fats.