BISMARCK, N.D. -- If something's rotten in North Dakota, the folks in Bismarck want to know how bad it stinks. How do they know? The scentometer and a state-certified nose.

State lawmakers have been grappling with whether to change how odors are measured on North Dakota's smelly feedlots, hog farms and the like. One bill would shift the spot where such tests are taken from the lot's property line to a half-mile away.All of which has brought to the fore a little gizmo that measures the stink. At $600 per scentometer, some lawmakers were expecting a high-tech gadget, something showy with digital readouts, blinking lights, maybe an electronic beep or two.

Reality was a letdown.

"It looked like kind of an old radio that somebody had thrown off their tractor or out of their car," said Rep. Gene Nicholas of Cando, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.

The scentometer is a hand-held plastic box with two plastic prongs jutting out, awaiting the nostrils of its user. The Ohio company that makes it says it's been on the market for 45 years.

The gadget works when the state-certified smeller inhales through the box. Using filters and a comparison of smelly to unsmelly air, a number is arrived at which either meets or fails to meet the state standard.

If the sniffer can smell the stench when seven parts of filtered air mix with one part of unfiltered air, it is a reading of 7 -- that's a violation.

"It's not the most accurate, but I guess it gives you something to go from to compare," said Bob Bergquist, who is helping to develop a large hog operation in Grand Forks County.

To become a state-certified smeller, by the way, means passing the state's odor detection exam. It's a three-step test that requires candidates to, among other things, distinguish between cinnamon, oranges and lemons -- and be able to judge the strength of a banana scent.