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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Building Networks for Canola-Jet Fuel Value Chains

Location: Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory

2013 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
Assess barriers to farmer adoption of oilseed production, outreach and extension needs, and value chain structure to overcome adoption barriers and accelerate development of a commercial canola to jet fuel industry.


1b.Approach (from AD-416):
Farmer oilseed adoption assessment methods will be developed and tested, and results will be analyzed. The target population for outreach and extension will be identified, and assessment of outreach and extension needs will be conducted and analyzed. Community stakeholder meetings and rural business development forums will be designed and implemented. Social networks and their role in establishing a new canola to jet fuel value chain will be monitored, mapped and analyzed.


3.Progress Report:

A major challenge for renewable aviation biofuels is providing a reliable feedstock. Motivating farmers to grow feedstock is based on the perceived reliability of a complex value chain. These perceptions are shaped by experiences such as high market prices and risk protection in growing current crops, and knowledge of friends or neighbors who have grown new crops and not been paid. Such experiences raise levels of distrust of outside schemes. Qualitative and quantitative tools are used to determine what needs to be in place for farmers to participate in the value chain. While price is important, so are a number of other factors, particularly those that would allow alternative value chains as back up and bargaining power. By learning who is trusted and how risky shifts are contemplated by farmers with the potential to produce oil seeds for fuel, the probability that the value chains can be put in place and be sustainable is raised.

Four focus groups were held in Mandan and Minot North Dakota, Wellington, Kansas and Enid, Oklahoma, all areas with histories of some canola production. The respondents were identified by the local extension educators/agents using quota sampling techniques. All had substantial wheat production and of those some had grown or were growing canola. The purpose of the focus groups was to assess the facilitators and barriers to growing canola or other brassicas for aviation fuel in each context: northern North Dakota, central North Dakota, southern Kansas, and northern Oklahoma. Some of the producers included their farm hands who they were grooming for succession.

Each farmer located their farm on a state map. They also prepared a timeline of their cropping/livestock systems over time, including the equipment changes associated with the changing systems. Changes over time included moving away from “black fallow” and from cattle and other livestock, increased crop rotations, movement to no-till and a few attempts at cover crops. After a presentation about the project and its purpose, a guided conversation around questions sent out prior to the meeting was conducted. Interviews were digitally recorded and then transcribed. After the initial analysis of each transcription, key themes were identified and interviews were coded using N-Vivo software. The themes were then classified by the major capital it represented, although many themes clearly overlapped. Capital types included natural capital, cultural capital, human capital, political capital, financial capital, and built capital.

Definite differences among the groups were identified, but there were also many commonalities. There was definite movement of corn into all regions, although it was most notable in western North Dakota, where changing climate made it easier to grow than previously. However, in all regions, high corn prices supported by crop insurance for both price and crop loss encouraged that shift. Similarities and differences among the sites and the implications for creating sustainable value chains that have positive local as well as national impacts are being explored in more detail.


Last Modified: 8/29/2014
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