OLYMPIA -- Kevin Maas distributed quart-size bags of a dark, powdery substance to each member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Economic Development.

"This is digested fiber, a by-product of an anaerobic digester," he said. "It has a mild odor."

The senators sniffed and disagreed with the word "mild," but said they were interested in what Maas had to say.

In testimony concerning Senate Bill 6559 on Jan. 25, Maas, with Farm Power Northwest LLC in Skagit County, Wash., said the fiber is proving to be better cow bedding than sawdust. "We don't want to lose the opportunity to move this to farms."

He said the digested fiber can also be used in the horticultural industry.

"We hope to lead the country in ways to use this by-product," he said.

Language in the bill is designed to protect operation of anaerobic digesters under the Washington Right to Farm Act. The act specifies that certain agricultural and forest practices are presumed to be reasonable and protected from being prohibited or limited in a nuisance lawsuit.

To qualify for protection under the act, agricultural activities must be consistent with "good practices" and must have been established before surrounding non-agricultural activities.

SB6559 would put the fiber and the electricity produced by digesters on a par with other farm products such as forage, dairy products, poultry, livestock, fruits, vegetables and trees.

-- Steve Brown

Recommended for you