CALDWELL, Idaho — A proposed $90 million sorghum processing facility near Parma, Idaho, has passed an important hurdle and will move forward.
Canyon County officials voted 2-1 April 4 to amend the county’s comprehensive plan, a move needed to enable the property where the project will be located to be rezoned from agricultural to light industrial.
A “no” vote would have likely meant the end of the project at its current location on a 48-acre site off of Shelton Road, where Highway 95 and Highway 26 meet.
The Treasure Valley Renewables project will handle about 1,500 acres of sorghum a year and turn it into paper products used by the food industry.
It will include an anaerobic digester plant that will use agricultural waste, including the sorghum byproduct, manure from dairies, slaughterhouse waste and a variety of other agricultural feed stocks, to produce biogas and electricity.
Byproducts will include fertilizer, compost and livestock bedding.
The project has faced opposition from local landowners who are worried about increased traffic, noise, odors and lighting as well as safety concerns associated with the anaerobic digester’s production of methane gas.
Matthew Johnson, an attorney who represents landowners opposed to the project’s location, told commissioners it doesn’t fit in that heavily agricultural area.
“This is essentially an industrial scar in an agricultural area,” he said. “This is not the right location for this type of project.”
Commissioner Pam White agreed and voted against the comprehensive plan amendment and rezone for that reason.
“I want this business in Canyon County ... but I do not believe that it is compatible for that location,” she said.
Commissioners Steven Rule and Tom Dale disagreed and voted for the comp plan change and rezone.
Both pointed out that the location is about 1 mile from the eastern edge of Parma, an area that includes an onion processing facility, fertilizer operation and other industries.
“I believe this can co-exist with the agricultural uses that are going on there,” Dale said.
Rule said the issue was a complex one and he understands neighbors’ concerns.
But, he added, “I like industry ... If I fail my community and the (voters) that put me here, I’m going to fail on the side of industry. That’s where I’m landing this time.”
A 25-farmer cooperative, Agrienergy Producers Association, will grow the sorghum used by the facility.
Neill Goodfellow, who represents those farmers and is also a project developer, said the facility will provide those growers with another rotation crop that fetches a stable price every year.
“It gives the farmer an opportunity to have a crop that he can count on in his rotation that has a fixed value and is not subject to the whim of the marketplace,” he said. “It’s not a cash crop like onions or beets or potatoes (but) it’s steady and he’ll know what it will be year to year.”
Goodfellow said developers hope to have the facility operational within 18-24 months.