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Canola Processing Plant in Minnesota Begins Operations

HALLOCK, Minn., June 7, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- On May 18th, 2012, Northstar Agri Industries, a subsidiary of PICO Holdings Inc. (Nasdaq:PICO) became the first operational canola processing plant with integrated refinery in Minnesota. The plant is now fully operational having ramped production up to 80 percent of capacity, and is shipping final product (refined canola oil and canola meal) to customers. The new plant has the capacity to process 1000 tons of canola seed per day, producing food grade refined canola oil, a heart healthy vegetable oil with growing US demand and canola meal, a high protein dairy cow and livestock feed ingredient.

Northstar Agri Industries is located outside of Hallock, Minnesota in Kittson County, 20 miles south of the Canadian border. The plant accepted its first canola seed in January 2012 and continued to build its canola seed inventory through March in preparation for the planned start up in May of this year. McGough Industrial Construction, LLC completed the plant construction three months ahead of the guaranteed completion date allowing for an early start for crushing operations.

"Having the plant ready to begin crushing is such a huge accomplishment for everyone who has been involved," said Neil Juhnke, Northstar President and COO. "I'm so incredibly proud of the work that's been done to bring this plant to Kittson County," adds Juhnke.

In recent years, North Dakota and Minnesota producers have planted between 0.8 and 1.2 million acres of canola. This year, the planted acreage of canola in North Dakota may exceed 1.4 million acres with another 40 to 50 thousand acres in Minnesota.  Canadian canola acreage may set a new record this spring with plantings forecast to exceed 21 million acres. With the recent favorable weather conditions, growers have planted the crop earlier than expected.  Growing conditions to date have been excellent, leading to an excellent start to this crop year. Northstar has a variety of contracting options available for canola farmers.   Interested parties may contact David Holzwarth at 218-843-7301.

Northstar is planning to operate the plant through mid-July 2012 with old crop canola seed.  The company will then schedule a short shutdown to inspect equipment and make any needed adjustments. Northstar plans to restart the plant in mid-August processing new crop canola seed. The company is looking forward to a successful first year of operations, working with farmers and elevators in the region to provide a new market for canola seed and produce high quality finished products for customers.  Land O'Lakes Purina Feed LLC is under contract with Northstar to market both canola oil and canola meal.

A community wide grand opening event is planned for August 8, 2012. Local, state and national dignitaries are scheduled to speak and tours of the plant will be provided for the press and the general public.

For more information contact Neil Juhnke, President and COO of Northstar Agri Industries or visit www.northstaragri.com.

CONTACT:  Neil Juhnke
          Northstar Agri Industries
          701-478-5848
          njunke@northstaragri.com
          www.NorthstarAgri.com
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