Fargo, N.D.-based Northstar Agri Industries, a subsidiary of PICO Holdings Inc., on Monday announced plans to build a canola processing facility in Enid.
Pending regulatory approval and commitment of debt financing, construction is expected to begin a year from now, with completion in time for the June 2015 canola harvest.
The investment will create an annual payroll of $3.75 million, including about 55 handler, trucker and sales jobs, said Brent Kisling, executive director of the Enid Regional Development Alliance. But the bigger impact is the opportunity the refinery will present for regional Oklahoma farmers, he said.
“Winter canola production is a game-changer for Oklahoma agriculture,” Kisling said. Research shows farmers who plant two years of winter wheat followed by a year of Canola can increase their wheat yields by 15 percent to 20 percent, he said. And by using herbicides on the canola, he said, they can clean up weed problems.
“The plant will provide farmers with a much-needed local market to support continued acreage growth,” Kisling said. The closest current refineries are Bricktown Producers Cooperative Oil Mill in Bricktown and a refinery in central Kansas, he said
Meanwhile, consumption of canola — which is used not only to produce canola oil, but also canola meal for livestock including hog and poultry farms in Oklahoma — is rising at double-digit rates, said Neil Juhnke, Northstar president and chief operating officer. America, he said, relies on Canadian imports as annual consumption here currently equals the equivalent of 6 million acres, while annual production represents only 1.5 million acres.
This year, Oklahoma farmers are expected to plant an estimated 300,000 acres of canola, trailing only North Dakota in production, Juhnke said.
Northstar's proposed facility will have the capacity to process 2,200 tons of canola per day or 760,000 tons per year, Juhnke said, and will include a full refinery capable of producing 580 million pounds of food grade refined canola oil and 450,000 tons of canola meal annually.
Northstar has one other canola refinery, situated on 335 acres in Hallock, Minn. The company expects the Enid facility alone to represent 25 acres. Officials are negotiating with two railroads and several private property owners, Juhnke said.