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Farmers Can Harvest Energy for Profit

by Editors
Capital Press - March 29, 2002

Accustomed as they are to roLling with the punches, families who work the soil and tend the range know about change. They wouldn't still be on their land if they hadn't adjusted to unpredictable markets and shifts in society.

So they very well may be contemplating energy to be one of their biggest crops in years ahead. But it will require looking at familiar sights and envisioning something quite different.

Indeed, a number of farmers and ranchers no longer consider traditional waste as nothing but a nuisance. Instead, they found challenge and opportunity.

The country and the world are finally grasping the imperative that they can't always rely on traditional sources of energy. Fossil fuels are finite. Hydroelectric dams are probably a thing of the past.

But demand for energy plunges forward, multiplying as it goes. The basis for nonconventional, renewable sources that have the potential to fill large portions of the need live less in the city than in the country.

That means farming:

Farming the incessant wind with powerful windmills that send electricity surging down mighty power lines.

Farming the sun, the ultimate source of power. As solar power develops it may require fields of collectors that rely on wideopen spaces, until it is refined into a more practical source.

Farming the manure on dairy farms where a problem is being converted to efficient use.

Farming grain for fuel as well as food. So far ethanol and biodiesel fuel are the main forms being generated. But if research keeps plugging away, the time will come when we will see our ability to grow huge quantities of grain to be put to good use in our gas tanks.

Capital Press staff writer Scott Yates writes that another way of making use of grain is under consideration in the wheatlands of Eastern Washington.

Farmers are looking at other methods to dispose of straw besides burning fields. What they're seeing is the burning of clean fuel for energy.

Grass seed growers in Oregon virtually wiped out an ancient irritant between farmers and townspeople over the smoke from burning their fields. Solutions emerged when they started thinking of straw as a commodity instead of a pest.

Now numerous uses for straw are in place, from bedding, mulch, livestock feed and energy production to paper making, and the one-time costly problem has become a part, albeit a small part, of their profit picture.

The same can happen to the wheat fields of Eastern Washington.

New sources of energy must be developed. They will in time become profitable to those who develop them.

Farmers and ranchers, who have the land and the raw materials, ought to be the ones who benefit from farming energy for conservation and profit.

by Editors of the Capital Press
Farmers Can Harvest Energy for Profit
Capital Press - March 29, 2002

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