Boosting the amount of biofuels in diesel could provide new markets for hard-hit canola producers and encourage more processing capacity, says Alberta Canola.
The association representing canola producers is lobbying the province to boost the amount of biofuels in diesel to five per cent from the existing two per cent.
Alberta’s fuel standard also dictates gasoline sold here must meet a minimum five per cent average of renewable fuels, such as ethanol.
Alberta Canola chairman John Guelly said providing another market for canola would help a farming sector that lost about 40 per cent of its export market in a trade dispute — which shows no signs of ending — with China.
While new markets have been found for canola in Europe and Bangladesh, they have not replaced China’s buying power.
“It’s very tough to replace a customer who takes 40 per cent of your seed.”
Canola producers are hopeful trade issues with China can be resolved, but “there’s no sign it’s going to turn around anytime soon,” he said.
“But you never know. Things seem to happen overnight, sometimes. As fast as the tap gets shut off, it gets reopened.
“We really feel if the mandate was built, there would be more crush facilities built,” said Guelly. “It would be a big stimulator for the industry.
“If they knew there was going to be a supply for the next few years, we’ve heard from a lot of companies they’d be willing to build new crush facilities or increase the size of the ones we already have.”
That means increasing the value-added part of the canola business, which boosts economic development and creates jobs.
It is easier and cheaper to export canola oil than seed, which further helps the industry, whose farmers produced nearly six million tonnes of canola last year.
As well, increasing biofuels fits in with efforts to reduce the province’s carbon footprint and the movement toward more environmental sustainability.
Alberta Canola met with Premier Jason Kenney last summer to pitch its idea, which has also been raised with several government ministers, including Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen.
There has been no commitment yet. Alberta’s current renewable fuel standard expires in January, so canola producers believe the timing is good to make changes.
The canola group and the three other major crop associations that form Team Alberta called on governments to take action to reduce trade barriers.
Farmers’ financial problems have been exasperated by what Guelly has called the “harvest from hell,” because of the amount of crop that can’t be harvested because of the snow.
“Aggressive action from our governments on trade, BRMs (business risk management programs) and the carbon tax is a must,” said Guelly in a statement.
Alberta Pulse Growers chairman Don Shepert said it’s the third bad harvest in the past four years.
“We can’t control the weather, but it’s time for our governments to resolve the political issues that we can control,” said Shepert.