What is in this article?:
- California growers putting pencil balance sheet to see if camelina will compete with other crops.
- “This is not a miracle crop,” said Scott Johnson, president of Sustainable Oils. But managed properly, he said, it can work to meet demand that is growing because of green initiatives from the federal and state government.
Both he and Baker believe the greatest potential for the crop would be on open land in Westlands.
Roger Story, a Kerman alflafa grower and president of Fresno-based Investment Commercial Specialists Inc., said he spent a portion of the day after the meeting looking at land where the crop might be a fit.
“It’s an unproven product that might work on marginal land,” he said. “Typically, I buy good land. I’ll have to sit down and do a comparative analysis. It’s like blue chips compared to an IPO. I mostly want to go with something that’s proven.”
For now, Story is much more enamored with alfalfa selling at up to $280 a ton and having eight cuttings compared to one for camelina.
Story said, however, that learning of the crop triggered recollection of a parable from the Bible about a mustard seed likened to the kingdom of God and becoming a large tree.
Sustainable Oils, headquartered in Bozeman, Mont., and the presenter of the Coalinga program, hopes the parable has a more temporal side and that camelina acreage in California comes closer to 40,000 or more acres.
Sustainable Oils is offering contracts with growers that pay 11 cents per pound for camelina delivered to an oilseed crusher at J.G. Boswell in Corcoran. The contracts provide a $50 per acre shared risk commitment if total camelina production at harvest does not reach the $50 per acre levels. The contracts call for 200 acres of production.
The company has two seed distributors in the valley, The Wilbur Ellis Co. and Ag Seeds Unlimited.
“This is not a miracle crop,” said Scott Johnson, president of Sustainable Oils. But managed properly, he said, it can work to meet demand that is growing because of green initiatives from the federal and state government.
Johnson said growers who attended the meeting expressed a commitment to enroll at least 10,000 acres on which to grow the crop, a figure that is expected to grow after details are nailed down with Sustainable Oils and the federal government.
“We remain optimistic that all of the 25,000 acres will be enrolled by Sept. 16,” Johnson said. “The government program offsets a lot of the risks for a crop that a grower has never planted before.”
Paul Betancourt, a Kerman grower of almonds, Pima cotton and wheat, said he is keenly interested in the idea of “a crop that converts sunlight into energy,” but believes higher yielding varieties will be needed to make a camelina crop pencil out.