By STEVE BROWN
CATHCART, Wash. -- By the time a couple of hundred acres of canola are harvested in Snohomish County this September, a crusher and dryer facility should be ready to process it for biofuel.
County officials this week said they had reached an agreement with Whole Energy, a biodiesel producer, to install the equipment to help process canola into biodiesel.
The county-owned facility, which is certified organic, has been turning out food-grade cooking oil, said Linda Neunzig, the county's agricultural coordinator. The upgrade will allow the oil to be "de-gummed," a cleaning process essential for biofuel production.
The meal left after the oil is extracted is suitable for livestock feed, and several farmers and a nearby feed mill are ready to make use of that, she said.
Canola is not the only option at the Cathcart facility. The region's farmers also grow barley, mustard, triticale and wheat, all of which have been processed at Cathcart.
"With the good weather, farmers are out planting this week, extending the growing season, which means farmers have more grain options than ever before," Neunzig said. "That means we can anticipate ongoing demand for the crusher and dryer."
The $1.2 million facility was built primarily with state and federal grants. The county invested about $400,000. The dryer uses methane from the Cathcart landfill. The facility was built to help provide biodiesel for the county's vehicles.
"The additional equipment means farmers now have local opportunities to complete the process before selling to production companies," Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon said. "This follows through on our Focus-on-Farming commitment to expand opportunities that increase net revenues back to our farmers."
Snohomish County also benefits from the crusher-dryer facility. To increase the use of renewable energy sources in its fleet vehicles, the county teamed up last year with General Biodiesel and PetroCard to provide a 40 percent blend of biodiesel for its diesel vehicles. Part of that fuel came from 8 tons of canola crushed at Cathcart.