Wanted organic flax farmers: premiums offered
A new organic flaxseed oil processing facility opens in Iowa; 2500 organic acres needed for next year

PETALUMA, California, Posted November 3, 2004 (BUSINESS WIRE): The market for organic flaxseed in Iowa just got a major boost from a joint effort between a California cooking oil and dietary supplement manufacturer, an enterprising Iowan couple and a shrinking Midwestern town.

The nation's leading organic culinary oil and essential fatty acid (EFA) dietary supplement manufacturer, Spectrum Organic Products Inc., announced a major commitment to and investment in a new Iowa-based future in flaxseed farming and processing. Spectrum will be opening what the company believes is the world's largest production facility dedicated to organic, plant-based EFA oils. The facility will be opened in partnership with Mark and Julie Schuett, owners of BIOWA Nutraceuticals, an Iowa-based company that already processes organic soybean oil for processed food manufacturers.

It's a classic "back-to-the-future" business scenario with flaxseed formerly a top crop in Iowa five generations ago. Today, a handful of farmers are growing flax again due to successful organic agricultural research trials conducted at Iowa State University last spring but Spectrum hopes the new plant, which has the capacity to produce 60 tons of flaxseed oil daily, and the growing popularity for the heart-healthy oil will drive the number into the hundreds over the next decade. The Schuetts, who will be responsible for the plant’s operation, are already working to line up around 2,500 acres of flax for next year, the Sioux City Journal reported.

"We view this as a perfect marriage of agriculture and manufacturing," Neil Blomquist, CEO/president of Spectrum, said. "We're Californians partnering with native Iowan farmers and businesspeople. We all ardently believe this investment is planting a new sustainable economy for the future."

By relocating the company's 15-year-old processing operations to the Midwest, Spectrum is bringing new opportunities not only to the farm community but also to Cherokee County, which recorded the fourth largest population drop in Iowa since the last census, according to the Journal. The facility was courted heavily by both the Schuetts, who promised to have the plant operational by this fall and the County itself which petitioned the state for a zoning exception that qualified the new facility for tax credits and other incentives. In addition, Mark Schuett, president of BIOWA Nutraceuticals and an electrical engineer, oversaw construction of the new plant.

In return Spectrum currently employs nine people at the plant, has plans to double that number, and intends to pay an estimated 50 percent premium to flax farmers who convert to certified organic practices. At current market prices farmers could expect to get roughly $17 to $19 per bushel, according to the Journal report.

The new $4 million, 10,000-square-foot plant was opened Tuesday, Oct. 12, after a ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring keynote speaker Iowa Lieutenant Governor Sally Pederson.

"Governor Vilsack and I have worked throughout our time in office to promote additional opportunities for value-added agriculture in Iowa as a way to boost incomes for Iowa farmers and to strengthen Iowa's rural communities," Pederson said. "This new investment from Spectrum Organic Products supports a special niche in Iowa agriculture that has been identified as having strong potential to grow."

Moving the production facility to the Midwest will enable Spectrum and BIOWA Nutraceuticals to work directly with local farmers, including partnering test plots for new flaxseed varieties.

Iowa is one of the top five organic research states in the country, according to Organic Farming Research Foundation's (OFRF) "State of the States" 2001 report, with Iowa State University taking a lead in organic agricultural research and education. Iowa boasts 402 certified organic farms representing sales of $13.3 million and more than 79,000 organic acres, according to the 2002 USDA Census of Agriculture and OFRF.

Bob Scowcroft, executive director of OFRF, attended Tuesday's ribbon-cutting ceremony to accept a $5,000 contribution from Spectrum to support further farm-based research on organic practices. "More organic research means better organic farmers," Scowcroft said. "Building an organic infrastructure translates into added value for farmers and keeps organic jobs at home."

Most flaxseed today is purchased out of Canada or offshore, creating a fossil fuel-dependent distribution system. Spectrum and BIOWA believe their Midwest-based operation will reduce transportation time and costs, making for both an environmental and economic win-win.

"''State of the art' is an abused term in manufacturing today,” Mark Schuett said about the new facility, “but this plant more than lives up to this claim in the realm of plant-based oil processing."

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