Idaho soy, canola demanded for crushing plant
By John O’Connell
Soybeans and canola may soon become common crops in Southern Idaho rotations to supply an oilseed crushing plant scheduled to open this fall in Plymouth, Utah.
Washakie Renewable Energy started building the plant last fall on the site of its Plymouth biodiesel plant 10 miles south of the Idaho state line, seeking to cut costs by crushing its own oilseeds rather than continuing to buy finished oil from other suppliers, explained Jeff Peterson, government affairs director for the Salt Lake City-based business.
Peterson said Washakie doubled the Plymouth plant’s biodiesel capacity to 20 million gallons per year when it opened a second production line nearly two months ago. He said his company will need up to 1,300 tons of soybeans alone each day, in addition to canola and significant quantities of used vegetable oil.
Peterson said roughly 400,000 acres of farmland will be needed to support the plant, and Washakie hopes to source as much of the feedstock as possible from local growers. He said the plant also has excellent rail access for shipping in commodities. He said the company hasn’t started contracting for acreage but hopes to meet with growers before they make next season’s planting decisions.
The crushing facility will extract up to 80 percent of the oil content of seeds with a compression-based, mechanical system, leaving a significant quantity of oil in the remaining meal for sale to regional dairies and animal farms.
“Our initial estimates are we’ll be able to feed a couple of hundred thousand cows per year on our crushed meal,” Peterson said.
Peterson said Washakie planted a 20-acre test plot of soybeans in Northern Utah this season to research the feasibility of growing the crop in the region.
“Our soy right now looks pretty good,” Peterson said. “We don’t have any beans yet, but it’s growing.”
He said his company intends to partner with Utah State University on additional soy research. Peterson suspects soy will grow well in the Intermountain West but hasn’t been widely planted thus far due to the lack of a local market.
Peterson said safflower, already commonly grown throughout the region, could also be processed at the crushing facility, if EPA ever adds safflower to the list of approved biodiesel feedstocks.
Malad, Idaho, farmer Scott Fuhriman, a member of the Idaho Grain Producers Association board, still has the production from 160 acres of canola he raised last season in storage, with plans to sell it to Washakie once the crushing plant opens.
“We knew this was coming on line, so we decided to hold it,” Fuhriman said.
Though the crop didn’t yield as well as hoped, he said he’d consider raising more for the company.
American Falls, Idaho, grower Kamren Koompin has raised canola in the past and believes a local market for the crop would make it much more enticing. Koompin also believes local demand for oil meal will help the plant succeed.
Tax credits for Washakie’s biodiesel plant expired last year, but Peterson said biodiesel prices are competitive with regular diesel fuel, and his company is still operating in the black.