Cantwell touts camelina crop to farmers

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SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) -- Farmers are being urged to join a federal program that pays them to grow camelina, a crop that some researchers consider a potential alternative to overseas oil.

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said the new Agriculture Department effort is intended to jump-start the creation of a camelina-to-fuel industry.

But The Spokesman-Review reported that unless many more Western U.S. farmers grow camelina, few companies will invest money in production facilities to turn camelina oil into biodiesel or "green" aviation fuel.

Cantwell said Tuesday the program would pay Eastern Washington farmers up to $4.5 million in crop support over five years to grow camelina on their land. But growers must commit to the program by Sept. 16. The USDA funds are only for the current fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30.

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Information from: The Spokesman-Review, http://www.spokesman.com