Oilseeds Could Keep Bloom On Farm Profits
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Sunflowers and other oilseed crops, which disappeared from much of the northern Plains during the 1980s, may blossom again as a result of a last- minute change in the 1990 farm bill.
The new provision tucked into the farm bill also could take some of the sting out of the drastic cuts in government subsidies that wheat growers face over the next five years.
The government will pay farmers to refrain from planting wheat and other subsidized crops and allow them to keep the profits from growing sunflowers, safflowers, canola and other minor oilseeds on their land.
The provision could prove to be a real moneymaker for those willing to risk investment in a new crop and the four oilseed crushing plants in North Dakota and Minnesota.
Farmers ″may find that they can recoup at least some of what they’re losing in federal benefits from the market place,″ said John Gordley, a lobbyist for the National Sunflower Association and U.S. Canola Association.
Some worry that a burst of new production could depress oilseed prices the way wheat prices have been hurt by bumper crops worldwide this year.
Rep. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., slipped the provision into the farm bill during 11th-hour negotiations in October, Gordley said.
The ″0-92″ provision encourages wheat farmers to plant sunflowers or other oilseeds other than soybeans by guaranteeing them 92 percent of their usual government payment.
Farmers also can experiment with oilseeds by planting them on the 15 percent of their land that will no longer be eligible for government subsidies under the new farm bill.
If the legislation works as intended, the sunflower industry hopes to double production over the next five years.
The industry hit hard times in the mid-1980s as farmers switched to subsidized crops and foreign countries stepped up exports of cheap, subsidized vegetable oils.
U.S. sunflower production fell from 5.5 million acres in the early 1980s to 1.4 million acres this year.
An oilseed crushing plant at Velva, N.D., is in mothballs. A second plant, at Enderlin, N.D., went through bankruptcy and is operating at well under capacity, as are two other plants at Fargo and Red Wing, Minn.
″We’ve lost so much production the last several years that we need a good healthy increase,″ said Larry Kleingartner, executive director of the sunflower association.
″There’s a lot of uncertainty right now,″ said Guy Christensen, vice president of the National Sun Industries plant at Enderlin. ″Certainly it’s going to have a positive impact on production.″