Idaho may be known as the land of potatoes, but some farmers are beginning to turn to canola as a new cash crop.
A new report from the National Agricultural Statistics Service shows Gem State farmers planted nearly double the acres of the yellow flowering plant this year than they did in 2017.
Jim Davis, a University of Idaho canola researcher, says part of that is because prices for the crop have been fairly stable compared to others.
“Actually, wheat prices are at all-time low levels when you account for inflation. The price of dried peas is also down,” Davis says.
Wheat is still a big cash crop in Idaho, but Davis notes canola can help recharge soil nutrients, prevent erosion and cut down on pests in between plantings.
Worldwide demand for canola oil also continues to rise, leaving plenty of room for growth.
“Canada is one of the biggest producers of canola and they’ve maxed out their acreage of canola. The additional acres is going to have to come from somewhere and I think a lot of those acres will come from the U.S. and specifically from the Pacific Northwest,” Davis says.
Idaho’s 45,000 acres of canola still only account for about 2 percent of America’s harvest.
Potatoes, wheat, hay, sugar beets and barley made up the state’s top five cash crops in 2016.
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