By Ed Prosser
Scoular announced on March 14 its recommissioning of a sunflower crush plant near Goodland, Kansas. The facility will crush canola and soybeans for the growing renewable fuels market. After 18 months of construction, we hope to begin production in the fall of 2024.
Scoular continually looks for new market opportunities for producers and has been digging deeper into the potential for renewable fuels. So, we did some research. I started at Kansas State University, asking questions about canola. I knew about a canola growing program in the 2010s. Kansas and Oklahoma had 270,000 acres in 2014 but only 14,000 in 2021. There was interest in growing canola, but the economics were not there. The canola producers at that time in the Great Plains were hauling it all the way to North Dakota to get processed.
Canola struck a chord with me because of its high oil content and the booming renewable fuels market. The Southern and Central Plains producers currently don’t have a way to participate in the vegetable oil boom centered around those markets.
As I talked to both Oklahoma and Kansas growers working with the Great Plains Canola Association and Kansas State, I found that interest in the crop remains. In fact, there is probably as much interest in the crop now as there was in the early 2000s. In a continuous cropping wheat system, winter canola works well in the rotation, especially to control weeds. So, we became more confident that Scoular could bring canola acres back to the Great Plains.
The crush plant will process about 11 million bushels of seed annually. It will toggle between soybeans or soft seed and canola. If other alternatives become commercially viable, like camelina, the facility can also crush that. But in the beginning, we’ll focus on canola and soybeans. My goal for 2023 plantings is to find 50,000 acres of canola. Ultimately, we would like to see 400,000 to 500,000 acres dedicated to the plant.
We’re working with Kansas State, canola associations and seed breeders to not only bring back the growers who started the industry in the 2000s, but also to partner with new growers, particularly those closer to the facility. In the coming weeks, we are inviting producers to learn more, attend May 11 or 18 meetings in Kansas and sign up for canola acres.
Ed Prosser is senior vice president of emerging business at Scoular in Omaha, Neb.