RICHLAND, Wash. — Pacific Northwest canola growers are forming a new association that will represent them on the state and local levels.
Farmers and industry representatives met June 6 in Richland, Wash., to discuss the next steps in creating the organization, such as setting up a board of directors. The organization, which will be operational by the end of the year, will serve growers in Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.
Organizers are incorporating the organization and finishing the bylaws, said Karen Sowers, outreach specialist for oilseeds with Washington State University Extension. The organization will also hire an executive director.
The Washington Oilseeds Commission collects assessments, but can’t lobby in the state legislature, Sowers said. The new organization will be able to lobby legislatures in any of the four states.
Dale Thorenson, assistant director of U.S. Canola Association in Washington, D.C., said his organization works with Congress and the federal government on farm and regulatory policies. The regional association would do that on the state and local levels, he said.
Interest in canola is growing due to low wheat prices and a saturated cover crop market, said Anna Scharf, a grower in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. She is a board member of the U.S. Canola Association and president of the Willamette Valley Oilseed Producers Association.
In Oregon, only 500 acres can be grown under state restrictions until 2019. Craig Parker, of Willamette Biomass Processors in Rickreall, Ore., hopes the new association would help fight such restrictions.
“Valley growers really need help in the legislature, and it’s an expensive process, so being part of an association would help,” he said.
The valley is one of the best places in the world to raise the crop, which yields nearly 5,000 pounds an acre, Parker said.
In Washington, farmers average 1,500 to 3,000 pounds per acre, he said.
Priced at 18 to 20 cents per pound, canola is profitable for farmers, Sowers said. It also benefits other crops in a rotation.
Paul Walker raises canola in Grant County in Washington. Not many farmers are trying the crop in his area, and he said more outreach is needed to help them understand how canola fits into their crop rotations.
“I feel like I have seen disease pressures getting worse, so we need to be looking into crops to break up that,” he said.
Dues for farmers would be $75 per year, $25 of which would go to the U.S. association. Agency member dues would be $100 per year. Industry membership would be $250 and up.
Sowers would like to see 100 farmers from across the four states participate.