Flat oilseed prices expected

Mustard seed awaits shipping at Mountain States Oilseeds in American Falls, Idaho. The owner of the company expects oilseed prices will be flat in 2015.

AMERICAN FALLS, Idaho — Eastern Idaho safflower, mustard and flax growers should expect relatively flat contract prices in 2015, according to the region’s largest buyer of the commodities.

In January, Mountain States Oilseeds owner Bill Meadows plans to contract for 35,000-40,000 combined acres of the oilseeds in Eastern Idaho.

He anticipates prices will be within a penny of 24 cents per pound for flax, a quarter per pound for safflower and 34-35 cents per pound for mustard.

“They’re in a fairly neutral supply and demand situation, and prices are going to stay about where they are,” Meadows said.

He said all three crops should remain competitive with spring wheat and barley, and mustard prices are especially attractive. A Canadian company has already contracted for mustard at 35 cents per pound, a penny above the 2014 rate.

“It’s almost a no-brainer with mustard when it’s 35 to 36 cents. I don’t see how you can’t grow it,” Meadows said.

Though North Dakota and Canada increased their oilseed acres in 2014, Meadows said they had widespread quality problems, while Idaho quality was strong.

Meadows believes he’s close to saturating the mustard and safflower markets for his region. He has more interest among his grower base in mustard acres than he has demand and has been seeking additional buyers to accommodate more growth.

With safflower, a crop that likes lower elevations and a longer season, he believes he’s also close to saturating his market.

“There is the capacity to overproduce safflower,” Meadows said. “I think we’re right about where supply and demand intersects with acres.”

In 2014, he said buyers began purchasing safflower hand-to-mouth, rather than through forward contracts. Meadows has fewer safflower sales on the books but said shipments are up to date.

Meadows has doubled his flax sales in 2014, supplementing his local production with seeds from Canada. He’d like to significantly step up his Eastern Idaho flax acres.

“No one thought we could ever grow flax here economically, and we’ve shown we can, so that crop is starting to gain acceptance,” said Meadows, in his fifth year of buying flax.

Ron Lovell, of Ririe, raised both mustard and flax for Meadows this season but doesn’t plan to raise flax again. He’s found herbicide label rates for flax are insufficient to control broad-leaf weeds, and baling off the hardy straw is a challenge.

Several Eastern Idaho growers, however, are experimenting with flax as a means of controlling cereal cyst nematode. Tom Wood, of Newdale, planted 25 flax acres this season where his grain showed an orange tint, symptomatic of cereal cyst nematode damage.

He swaths flax for another grower who increased yields in a nematode-infested field from 50 bushels per acre to 85 bushels per acre after breaking up a cereal rotation with flax.

Wood plans to plant 25 acres of flax again in 2015, in another area where he’s had high nematode pressure. Wood knows of flax growers who have yielded 2,800 tons per acre, though his own yields weren’t that high in his first year of planting the crop.

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