Alberta’s other oil: Protecting a golden industry worth billions

Canola industry showcases Alberta’s ‘other oil’
WATCH: An industry that's worth billions in Alberta took root about 30 years ago. The canola industry is also responsible for tens of thousands of jobs. Vinesh Pratap has more.

It’s a common sight across Alberta and the prairies each year: the fields of gold along the highways.

For farmers, all that gold means green; canola is an important source of income.

“If we ever lose this industry, there will be a lot of problems in the farm world,” producer John Guelly said.

“It’s the main cash crop.”

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The third generation farmer also grows wheat and malt barley, but it’s canola where “most of my income comes from.”

With that fact top of mind, Guelly organized his third annual Canola Crop Walk.

READ MORE: Dryland canola crops struggle in hot and dry southern Alberta conditions

This season, dozens of farmers and agronomists gathered northwest of Edmonton near Westlock to learn about the latest best practices for growing canola.

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“We’re here to help to make sure that growers are up to date with the latest production practices so they can be as successful as growing this crop as possible,” explained Clinton Jurke, with the Canola Council of Canada.

The industry took root about 30 years ago in Alberta; Canada-wide, it’s now the most valuable crop grown in Canada according to the council.

It’s worth $27 billion to the Canadian economy; spin offs in Alberta are in the $7-billion range, with the industry responsible for more than 70,000 jobs here.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan farmers seed more wheat, less canola in 2018

Ninety per cent of what’s grown is exported.

“Lots into Japan, China is our biggest market, Mexico and the U.S.,” Guelly said.

“There’s been quite a bit of hail around, that’s caused a lot of issues.”

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When it comes to potential threats to the industry, the focus is usually on Mother Nature and worries about weather, disease or insects. But with all the rhetoric about trade and tariffs, could canola be in the crosshairs?

READ MORE: Lethbridge canola plant to receive huge $120M upgrade

“It’s really hard to predict but nothing that is standing out at this moment,” Jurke said.

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Across the prairies, the yellow blooms are quickly giving way as this season’s canola matures. Harvest should begin in the next two to three weeks.