Updated: Friday, February 11, 2011 10:38 AM
Producers of bird seed, eggs, dog food require oilseed
By DAVE WILKINS
When Bill Meadows started looking for alternative crops to diversify his Idaho farm more than 35 years ago, he was encouraged to try oilseeds.
He soon found that mustard, flax, safflower and related crops fit nicely into his dryland wheat rotation, allowing him to significantly reduce summer fallow acreage.
He was able to keep more of his farm in production each year and reduce pest and disease pressure in his wheat fields.
Meadows soon started to develop his own markets and formed Mountain States Oilseeds in 1974. His customers have included bird seed companies, egg farms, food processors and manufacturers of premium dog food.
Meadows received the Idaho governor's award for excellence in agricultural marketing innovation in 2009.
He sold his farm near Rockland, Idaho, last year and has been working full time to build the company that he founded 36 years ago.
"I don't think I've ever worked harder," he said during a workshop at the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation's annual meeting in November.
Mountain States Oilseeds purchases crops from about 150 contract farmers in southeastern Idaho and northern Utah.
The company handles about 500,000 bushels of oilseeds each year at its elevators in American Falls and Weston, Idaho, and at a seed-cleaning and warehouse facility in American Falls.
Meadows may add a seed-crushing facility.
Oilseeds contain essential fatty acids, and demand for the ingredients will only continue to grow as Americans become more focused on health, he said.
Canada is a major oilseed competitor, but Idaho is closer to most of the markets, Meadows said. Freight is cheaper.
"It gives us a competitive advantage," he said.
Meadows said one mustard processor in Southern California buys from him primarily because he's closer than Lethbridge, Alberta.
He's working to develop a mustard market in Mexico.
"I think mustard can be a tremendous growth crop for Idaho," he said. "There's a future for oilseeds in Idaho, and we should take advantage of it."
Farmers can use most of their existing small grain equipment for oilseeds, said Jason Godfrey, Meadows' business partner.
Pests don't like the diversified crop rotation that oilseeds provide, but bankers love it, Godfrey said.
William J. Meadows
Family: Married, two grown daughters
Education: Bachelor's degree in agricultural economics with a minor in agronomy, University of Idaho
Hometown: American Falls, Idaho