The Northstar Agri Industries’ Hallock, Minn., canola processing plant with integrated refinery is the first in Minnesota. It became operational in May and the facility has ramped production to 80 percent of capacity. Indications are that 2012 was the year to bring a new processing plant on line because canola acreage has reportedly exploded.

The new facility is in Kittson County, 20 miles south of the Canadian border. The plant accepted its first canola seed in January and continued to build its canola seed inventory from 2011 crop through March in preparation for the planned May start up. The canola oil and meal from the processing plant and refinery are currently being shipped.

The new plant has the capacity to process 1000 tons of canola seed per day, producing food grade refined canola oil and canola meal for dairy cows and other livestock feed protein.

In recent years, North Dakota and Minnesota producers have planted between 800,000 and 1.2 million acres of canola. This year, the planted acreage of canola in North Dakota may exceed 1.4 million acres with another 40,000 to 50,000 acres in Minnesota. Canadian canola acreage may set a new record this spring with plantings forecast to exceed 21 million acres, according to Northstar officials.

Favorable weather conditions also allowed growers to plant the canola crop earlier than expected. Growing conditions to date have been excellent, leading to a good start to this crop year, also according to Northstar officials.

Northstar is planning to operate the plant through mid-July 2012 with old crop canola seed. The company will then schedule a short shutdown to inspect equipment and make any needed adjustments. Northstar plans to restart the plant in mid-August processing new crop canola seed.

Northstar President and COO Neil Juhnke is looking forward to a successful first year of operations, working with farmers and elevators in the region to provide a new market for canola seed and produce finished products for customers. Land O'Lakes Purina Feed LLC is under contract with Northstar to market both canola oil and canola meal, he noted.

Northstar is using contracting with canola farmers to assure canola seed to process. The company explained various options are available.

A community-wide grand opening event with tours at the facility is planned for August 8, 2012.