Money for biofuel efforts headed to Valley

Camelina is emerging as a strong candidate for conversion to jet fuel, which, as this story in Western Farm Press notes, could be good news for owners of marginal land in the dry climate of the San Joaquin Valley.

Those efforts were bolstered in recent days when the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that 17 counties in California, including those in the San Joaquin Valley and nearby San Luis Obispo County, will be part of a broader effort to develop camelina (which also is good for cattle feed). Farmers will be reimbursed for much of the growing costs in a program that stems from the 2008 farm bill.

Here is more from a Turlock Journal story by Jonathan McCorkell, and from the official press release.

Why is this important? Well, thousands of acres of land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley are idle due to water and salt issues, and biofuels such as camelina (and algae, which is being studied at UC Merced. Learn more here) present potential alternative crops. Up to 25,000 acres in California can be used for camelina production under the just-announced federal program.

The Air Force has used camelina as a fuel, and the prospect of more jobs is vitally important to a region with high unemployment. Here is a quote by Congressman Jim Costa, D-Calif., as reported in the Capital Press, who says the Naval Air Station in Lemoore is a potential customer. "As we continue to face high unemployment in the (Central) Valley, any efforts at job creation like this project are good news."

Here is a link to the rest of the Capital Press story.

Camelina was gaining popularity in Montana, but is losing ground to other more-established grain crops, according to this story in the Billings Gazette. Maybe Montana's loss will be our gain.