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Prince George-area farmers muse about canola potential with biodiesel plant

PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. Unprecedented kinds of cash crops might be grown in the Prince George area if a proposed biodiesel plant goes forward as planned in northeastern B.C.

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PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. Unprecedented kinds of cash crops might be grown in the Prince George area if a proposed biodiesel plant goes forward as planned in northeastern B.C.

Agriculture Minister Pat Bell said the plant may mean canola, a large part of the landscape in the Peace country, could be grown in the Prince George area for the first time.

It is contingent, though, on the fuel factory.

Bell, the MLA for Prince George North, said it looks promising.

Bell is casting his gaze directly at the Prince George area, where no canola farming currently exists.

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The reason canola has not been grown in the Prince George area in the past is because there is too much moisture to allow the grain to dry, said Bell.

Nancy Loreth is with the Mud River Farmers' Institute, which hosted a social day recently at the Loreth farm with Bell in attendance. It was there the dialogue about local canola began between government and industry.

Loreth said canola farming has been discussed for years in the area but there were concerns about the market.

The group is talking about biodiesel, but the plant must be built first.

A feasibility study recently completed on the proposed plant shows strong signs for going ahead, along with the announcement by Energy Minister Richard Neufeld, a Peace-country resident, that the B.C. government will demand some of the highest biodiesel usage in the world in the coming years.

Garnet Berge, chairman of the B.C. Grain Producers' Assoc., said the hope is that a biodiesel plant will be built.

The plant, said Bell and Berge, would cost in the neighbourhood of $25 million to build and would be capable of producing about 22 million litres of diesel per year.

To do that, the plant would need about 56,000 tonnes of canola. The bulk of that would come from the immediate area around the plant, likely situated in Dawson Creek, but the rest could easily come from the Prince George region.

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