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Published August 13, 2012, 10:24 AM

A day to celebrate

Rob Rynning has been growing canola for many years. So the Kennedy, Minn., farmer was excited a few years ago to learn about a proposed canola processing plant in nearby Hallock, Minn.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

HALLOCK, Minn. — Rob Rynning has been growing canola for many years. So the Kennedy, Minn., farmer was excited a few years ago to learn about a proposed canola processing plant in nearby Hallock, Minn.

“We knew having one would improve our local basis,” says Rynning, referring to the price he receives when he sells canola to the plant.

He liked the project so much he even invested in it. Rynning was among several hundred people who on Aug. 8 attended the grand opening of the Northstar Agri Industries’ canola processing plant in Hallock.

“This is a day of celebration,” said Matt Kuzel, plant operations manager, at the event.

The plant began operations in May and 22 days later reached its rated capacity of 1,000 tons of canola daily.

Initially, the plant used canola left over from the 2011 crop. It’s begun using newly harvested canola, some from as far away as Oklahoma.

Six years in the making

Northstar was formed in August 2006, according to Neil Juhnke, president and chief operating officer.

“We’ve been working on it ever since. There’s nothing like a global economic meltdown to get in your way,” he says with a smile.

About 100 local investors own 12 percent of Northstar Agri Industries. Its parent company is La Jolla, Calif.-based PICO Holdings, which brought $60 million in equity to the project.

Juhnke says he always was confident the project would succeed.

“We did dare greatly, and I daresay we’re in the process of succeeding greatly,” he says.

Northstar’s canola oil and canola meal is sold nationwide, and some of its canola oil even was sold to China.

“So we’re now a global company,” Juhnke says with another smile.

Demand is growing

Juhnke and other Northstar officials say worldwide demand for canola is strong. Canola seeds — similar in size to poppy seeds — are crushed to produce oil, which has a reputation for being healthy, and meal, generally fed to cattle and pigs.

Canada is the world’s leading producer and exporter of canola and North Dakota is the dominant U.S. producer, although it also is grown in northwest Minnesota.

The Northstar plant is two miles south of Hallock, a town of 980 in extreme northwest Minnesota. Hallock is near both Canada and North Dakota, a big factor in why the site was selected.

The site also offers convenient access to BNSF Railway track and U.S. Route 75, an important north/south U.S. highway.

Northstar officials hope the plant will encourage more Minnesota farmers to raise canola.

“I definitely think the plant will encourage more farmers in Minnesota to grow it,” Rynning says.

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