In one sense, Simplot Grower Solutions in Berea, NE, winning an Environmental Respect Award is interesting, especially when you consider the company’s approach to stewardship. “When it comes to environmental stewardship, you don’t get second chances,” says Garry Rasmussen, supervisor for the outlet. “Everything you do has got to be done right the first time.”
However, when it comes to trying to win an Environmental Respect Award, Simplot Berea has taken second chances. After receiving a state honor back in 1999, the outlet has narrowly missed winning for several years since. In 2007, this persistence finally paid off with a regional honor.
“We are all very excited to win this award,” says Rasmussen. “Our outlet has put all its environmental practices into place because it was the right thing to do, but being recognized for our efforts is very gratifying nonetheless.”
According to Rasmussen, environmental stewardship has been a big part of Simplot Berea’s way of doing business since the facility first opened back in the early 1990s. Although it is located about 9 miles north of the town of Alliance, NE, the outlet has still taken extraordinary precautions when its comes to handling crop inputs.
For instance, the company’s product tanks are inspected annually for any defects. All containment areas are power washed and resealed every fall. Perhaps most impressively, all liquid product offloading — which takes place at a railroad stop approximately one mile away from the facility — is transported via an underground piping system to the outlet’s holding tanks.
“These pipes are heavily reinforced to prevent leaks and have a double wall containment system in place, which is more of a safety precaution than state regulations call for,” says Rasmussen. “Also, the transport pipe’s offloading end is located in a locked steel security cage to protect it against tampering.”
Other security measures at the outlet include the locking of all tank valves and warehouse doors, putting all Restricted Use crop protection products in a securely locked area of the chemical warehouse, and locking all entry gates onto the facility grounds during off hours.
Education Is Key
Besides these physical measures to protect the environment, Rasmussen believes that Simplot Berea has succeeded in its stewardship efforts in large part through education. “We have training every year for chemical storage and handling,” he says. “We also have two employees certified as HAZWOPPERS (Hazardous Work Operations and Emergency Responses).”
However, this education regiment extends far beyond the outlet’s own grounds. “We are always trying to instruct grower-customers on new products and procedures,” says Rasmussen. “We have many chemical meetings with our growers every year to try to help them with their crop needs and with the new water restrictions. We are having meetings to try to stress the importance of these new measures and the problems we will come up against in the future.”
Some of these issues have already come into play during the current growing season, he adds. With many more growers moving to a continuous corn model to take advantage of higher prices spurred by ethanol growth, Simplot Berea’s customers are running up against water restrictions brought on by a few years of lower than expected rainfall. “This means many growers have adopted no-till farming practices to conserve water,” says Rasmussen. “But this has put added pressure on our custom applicators to be careful in how we apply crop protection products and fertilizer, trying to keep inputs where they belong and not ending up on neighboring properties.”
Being Good Neighbors
This “protecting neighbors” approach extends into the community involvement Simplot Berea initiates each year. As part of its regular services, the outlet has a plastic compactor on-site, where all cleaned plastic containers can be crushed and readied for recycling. The company also sponsors students at the local high school in a work program, so they can get an idea of what it’s like to work at an ag retailer.
Most recently, Simplot Berea has embarked on a tree planting program, putting in a row of baby pine trees along the western edge of the facility’s grounds. “When these trees get bigger, they will not only provide our outlet with a wind block, but will look green and environmentally friendly for anyone visiting our area,” says Rasmussen.
Overall, he adds, this kind of long-range thinking will keep Simplot Berea leading the environmental stewardship charge for years to come. “Here at Berea, we stress our company motto — nothing hits the ground unless it is properly applied,” says Rasmussen. “I feel it is very important to the future of ag and our business that we are instructing our customers and our employees in the proper way to use and apply chemicals to keep from having environmental issues.”