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Published February 01, 2013, 10:05 AM

2 wins for canola

Regulators agree with growers on production history, final planting dates.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

Canola growers on the Northern Plains have won two victories on the regulatory front, both involving federal crop insurance.

The most recent win is a decision by federal regulators that allows farmers who grow high-oleic canola to insure it using a production history that’s more favorable to growers than the one first planned.

“We’re tickled pink,” says Barry Coleman, executive director of the Northern Canola Growers Association in Bismarck, N.D. The state is the nation’s dominant canola producer.

Coleman learned of the decision on Jan. 31.

Growers were concerned about production history requirements for a new U.S. Department of Agriculture pilot program for insuring specialty canola.

The pilot program recognizes that specialty canola sells for a premium price. It allows farmers who raise high-oleic canola under contract to insure it at a premium price.

Most growers of high-oleic canola, however, haven’t raised it long enough to meet the program’s production history requirements. Most growers would have needed to use so-called county “transitional yields” that are lower than the actual yields on their farms. That would have resulted in a big reduction in how much insurance a grower could buy.

The Northern Canola Growers Association had requested that the pilot program be postponed for one year, rather than force growers to use the transitional yields.

In the end, regulators decided that the program will go forward — but without the use of the transitional yields that growers objected to.

Now, growers of high-oleic canola who can’t meet the program’s production history requirement will be able to insure the crop along with their regular canola, as they have done in the past.

“A grower who doesn’t have sufficient production history won’t be forced to take T-yields,” Coleman says. “That’s the important thing.”

Growers of high-oleic canola who meet the program’s production history requirement will still be able to insure their crop at a premium price.

Over time, more growers of high-oleic canola will build an adequate production history and become eligible to participate in the specialty program, Coleman says.

About 25 percent of the canola grown on the Northern Plains is the high-oleic variety, Coleman estimates.

High-oleic canola oil is a naturally stable oil that needs no hydrogenation or modification to extend the shelf life of products to which it’s been added.

The other regulatory win for canola growers was announced earlier this winter.

It involves an extension of the final date on which canola can be planted in North Dakota and northern Montana and remain eligible for federal crop insurance.

“We’re very pleased,” Coleman says. “We worked on this (the extension) using three years of studies.”

Under the revised regulations for 2013, the final planting date for canola will be May 15 in southwest North Dakota and northern Montana, May 20 for southeast North Dakota, May 25 in north central North Dakota and June 5 in northern North Dakota.

Canola growers had argued that new varieties and better farming practices extend the window in which the crop can be planted safely.

“It’s a good example of government (regulators) letting new technologies shine through,” Coleman says of the extension.