An economic development grant approved by Josephine County officials last year has hit a snag, but Commissioner Dave Toler said that the project remains worthwhile and has benefited the community.
The $85,000 grant was approved by the board of county commissioners on Jan. 13, 2009 by a 2-1 vote, with Sandi Cassanelli dissenting. It was awarded to the Josephine County Soil and Water Conservation District (JCSWCD), which was charged with administering the grant in cooperation with the Eugene-based firm, N.W. Seed Crushers.
At the time, it was hoped that canola could be grown by area farmers, which could then be crushed, with the resulting oil used for biofuels. The growing of canola is prohibited in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, but not in the southwest portion of the state.
However, the partnership between N.W. Seed Crushers and JCSWCD now appears to be dissolving, and could end up in litigation.
Toler addressed the issue during the Wednesday, Feb. 3 meeting of the Josephine County Renewable Energy Task Force, held at the courthouse in Grants Pass.
Only half of the grant allotment has been spent, Toler said, meaning that the other half is still available.
Toler touted certain aspects of the grant allocation. He said that more than 300 acres of canola have been planted throughout the county as a result, with several growers participating.
Kit Doyle has taken the lead on the project, Toler said, and has created partnerships with many growers. Doyle also has a waiting list of other growers hoping to become involved, Toler said.
A production facility for the crop may be established somewhere in the county soon, Toler said, adding that the Applegate Valley is becoming the local “epicenter” of canola growing.
Once the canola seed is crushed, around 70 percent of the product can be used as an agricultural feed product, Toler said, and the rest can be used as a biofuel.
He said that a new state mandate requires that 3 percent of the diesel consumed in Oregon come from renewable energy sources. There is currently an inadequate supply of such renewables in the state right now, he said, so it is being imported from Montana.
“This is definitely growing,” Toler said.
The grant was intended to stimulate the growth of biofuels crops, Toler said. Unless the commissioners vote to pull the remaining funding back, he said, it can go to a local contractor to continue the project.
“I think it will have a long-term impact in terms of agriculture,” Toler said. “With $43,000, we stimulated part of our agriculture sector. That’s great bang for our buck.”
Doyle will be scheduled to make a presentation to the commissioners sometime in mid-February about the canola project, Toler said.
Scott Jorgensen, Illionois Valley News – http://www.illinois-valley-news.com/archive/2010/02/10/canola/