Oregon producers grow camelina for local plant

By Timothy Charles Holmseth | August 08, 2008
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Web exclusive posted August 11, 2008 at 4:01 p.m. CST

Twenty-six growers in eastern Oregon have planted camelina on marginal cropland. The oilseed crop will soon be harvested and taken to Williamette Biomass Processors Inc. in Rickreall, Ore., to be crushed and provided to a local biodiesel producer for use as a feedstock.

Camelina is a flowering plant that is native to northern Europe and Central Asian areas, but has been introduced in North America. Traditionally cultivated as an oilseed crop to produce vegetable oil and animal feed, it's become attractive to biodiesel producers looking for a cost effective feedstock.

Williamette Biomass Processors Chief Executive Officer Craig Parker said within a month the processor expects to have a million and half pounds of seed. "This is our first year in operation and the fact that we are getting as much crop as we are, we are very happy about that."

Williamette Biomass Processors crushes the seed, but doesn't make the biodiesel. "We have an outlet for the oil - we will sell it to a biodiesel producer. We sell the majority of our oil to Sequential Biofuels in Salem, Ore.," he said.

The camelina crop produces more benefits than just for use in biodiesel production, Parker said. "Different growers have different objectives. Some want to make their own biodiesel � some just want the meal � the meal represents about 60 percent of the product. Seventy-five percent of the gross tonnage goes back to farmers in the form of meal that they feed animals."

Although there is a hold on the meal end, Parker said things are expected to change. "Camelina meal is not approved at this time," he said. "We're waiting for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve the meal at a 2 percent ration � were hoping to get that approval within a couple of weeks."

Parker said the growers � and processor � have learned a lot in the past year. "You learn a lot the first year about when to plant, how to plant it, and what different methods to use. It's really a very positive thing for agriculture in the state of Oregon," he said. "Oregon State University Soil and Crop Science Department is very excited about the opportunity for Oregon growers."
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