United Coop’s South Beaver Dam Location Wins National ERA Honors

The South Beaver Dam, WI location of United Cooperative was honored recently in Washington, DC, as the National DuPont Environmental Respect Award (ERA) winner.  The envelope containing the name of the winning business was opened in the US Capitol, as ERA winners representing 13 countries around the globe were present to celebrate 21 years as the world’s premier production agriculture environmental award.

The South Beaver Dam facility is located about 30 miles from Madison in the glacier-carved fertile soils of central Wisconsin. “We are here for a short duration in time; the water, wind, and earth are forever,” says David Cramer, United Cooperative president and chief executive officer. “The cooperative strives to be good stewards of the environment every day. Even when I’m in the planning and building stages for additions, environmental safety is always a priority.”

The 2011 national ERA winning facility exemplifies what planning for environmental impact really means.  The South Beaver Dam agronomy operation can only be described as a state-of-the-art retail outlet, expertly designed and set on a massive floor of blacktop. 

“There are acres of blacktop out there,” says Kevin Williams, vice president for agronomy operations.  “Whenever there are small spills, we are not dealing with digging in the dirt.  We can get Oil Dry, lime chips or whatever is needed to contain any spill, and obviously we can catch every spill or drip before the vehicle leaves the plant.”

The South Beaver Dam agronomy location includes 28,000 tons of liquid crop nutrient storage and 24,000 tons of dry storage. “We take great pride in both our dry and liquid plant nutrient facilities,” says John Hying, agronomy operations manager.  “All products are stored under roof or within tanks featuring secondary containment.”

The automated mixing and loading building was constructed in 2004. “Bulk crop protection products are dispensed through our Junge automated system,” explains Hying. “We have a dedicated line from every bulk tank so there can be no cross contamination. Everything is measured by weight to maintain consistency. The system automatically triple rinses after each load.”

The system injects crop protection products into the carrier and automatically holds back 3,000 pounds of carrier which is used to flush any product out of the line as the load is completed. “Our orders are all computer generated and the entire mixing system is controlled by the computer,” says Hying.

The dry fertilizer side of the business is handled in much the same way as the liquid product.  “One click of the mouse and the order is entered into our system,” explain Duane Swenson, dry fertilizer facility manager.  “From that point on all I have to do is push a couple more buttons and the entire order is loaded into the blender and dispensed into the truck.  I don’t leave my perch and the driver never gets out of the truck.”

With all of this automation humans still play an important role in the operation and it’s not hard to imagine how busy the blacktop roadways just outside the mixing facilities can become.  It’s John Schoenfeld’s  job as safety and compliance manager to make sure that human error does not create unsafe conditions. 

“We’ve instituted a near-miss unsafe conditions report,” says Schoenfeld.  “The report allows employees to communicate any risk behaviors or conditions that they witness everyday that could lead to an accident. We often see things and forget about them so this is a tool to record near-miss information.”

Schoenfeld says he hopes employees will correct the conditions that they witness and take a leadership role. “There are times when engineering changes may need to occur, so that may take further research before we can correct the situation,” he says.

The South Beaver Dam facility relies on information gained each season from their grower answer plots. These plots create test situations upon which to recommend new products as well as helping to educate customers on all aspects of crops including seed selection, crop protection products, United Cooperative services including a precision agriculture program.

“Farming in this region started to change dramatically about five years ago,” explains Jim Kemink, vice president, seed and agronomy sales.  “We went from a dairy-based farm economy in the late 1990s and started to transition into a grain economy. Yields started to increase dramatically so we took a much closer look at fertility programs and we started to see that our potash and potassium levels were dropping dramatically.  We realized that with yields going up there was a lot more demand for borate fertilizers.”

“United Cooperative and the South Beaver Dam location continue to invest in bringing precision agriculture and nutrient management planning to the grower level,” explains Cramer. “This has helped improve net-profit potential for the growers while practicing environmental stewardship. We have brought our environmental concern to the forefront and our customers have picked up on that and they are as equally concerned about doing their part,” he says.

Reaching out into the community around Beaver Dam, WI is all in a days work for the United Cooperative employees.  The cooperative has developed a policy of focusing its financial and volunteer support on agriculture-related organizations and rural emergency agencies. Local schools have an opportunity to learn more about the work of a retail farm supply.  Dan Huitema, a south Beaver Dam employee, recently packed up a load of “Fun with the Plant Nutrient Team” coloring books and drove his spreader truck to the local elementary school.  “The kids had a great time taking turns sitting in the driver’s seat,” he says.

“We have big plans to increase our use of precision agriculture and associated technology,” says Cramer. “We are also excited about the future of variable-rate nitrogen, variable-rate seed and variable variety seed.  By using variable-rate phosphorous, potassium and aglime with variable rate nitrogen our growers can continue to increase yields while reducing potential impact on the environment.  They can easily follow the four Rs of nutrient application: right product, right rate, right place and right time.”

Leave a Reply

Stewardship Stories

StewardshipA Multi-Layered Approach To Water Quality
October 6, 2014
Illinois event highlights research and technology designed to better monitor and improve water quality — and the benefits of cooperative, coordinated effort. Read More
StewardshipMichigan Agriculture Leaders On Toledo Water Ban: We Want To Be Part Of The Conversation
August 8, 2014
Leaders of Michigan agricultural organizations said Thursday that the government should not have a “knee-jerk reaction” based on last weekend’s water ban in Toledo due to fertilizer run-off in Lake Erie. Read More
StewardshipBayer Lands Honor For Bee Care Center, Other Initiatives
June 3, 2014
Bayer Corp. has been named a 2014 Responsible Care Company of the Year by the American Chemistry Council, thanks in large part to its Drive Toward Zero initiative and North American Bayer Bee Care Center. Read More
StewardshipStrip-Tillage: A Sustainable Effort
March 3, 2014
As sustainable agriculture grows in popularity, interest in custom strip-tillage is growing. Read More

Trending Articles

Crop InputsPlatform Specialty Products To Acquire Arysta LifeScience
October 20, 2014
Once the acquisition is complete, Platform Specialty Products will combine Arysta LifeScience with previously acquired companies Agriphar and Chemtura Crop Solutions. Read More
Seed/BiotechMonsanto Offers New Support For Ferguson, Area Communities
October 8, 2014
Monsanto Co. has committed $1 million in new support for several collaborative efforts in Ferguson, MO, and surrounding communities in North St. Louis County. Read More
Seed/BiotechUnapproved Genetically Modified Wheat Found In Montana
October 3, 2014
USDA reports that one year after discovery of Monsanto's unapproved wheat in a single Oregon field disrupted U.S. wheat export sales, the GMO wheat has again been found in Montana. Read More
Equipment2014 Product Of The Year Voting
September 19, 2014
The deadline to vote for the 2014 CropLife IRON Product of the Year is October 31. Please cast your vote today to help us determine the winner. Read More
FertilizerFall Fertility 2014: Forecasting Fertilizer Use
September 7, 2014
Great crops this year have tapped the soil, and fall work is definitely called for, but how challenging will that get? Read More
CropLife 100CHS To Build $3 Billion Fertilizer Plant In North Dakota
September 5, 2014
The fertilizer plant in Spiritwood will be the single largest investment in CHS history, as well as the single largest private investment project ever undertaken in North Dakota. Read More

Latest News

Seed/BiotechMonsanto Named One Of The World’s Best Multinational …
October 23, 2014
Monsanto ranked No. 8 in the world’s largest annual study of workplace excellence that identifies the top 25 best multinational companies in terms of workplace culture. Read More
Crop InputsArysta Hires Former Agri-Chem, CPS Employee For Delta S…
October 23, 2014
New Territory Sales Manager Mark Peel’s primary role will focus on working with growers regarding fungicides in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee. Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Announces Appointments In Plant Food Division
October 22, 2014
GROWMARK, Inc. has announced the three key staff changes in its Plant Food Division. Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Appoints New VP Of Finance And Risk Management
October 22, 2014
Wade Mittelstadt has been named GROWMARK Vice President, Financial and Risk Mangement, effective December 1, 2014. Read More
FungicidesEPA Approves BASF In-Furrow Corn Fungicide
October 22, 2014
Field trials show Xanthion In-furrow fungicide provides more rapid emergence, extended residual control and improved seedling health than untreated crops. Read More
EquipmentAgraScout App Available At No Cost To Universities
October 21, 2014
AgraScout, a fast and easy to use mobile crop scouting app, is now available at no cost to University students, Read More
LegislationNew Farm Bill Program To Provide Relief To Farmers Affe…
October 21, 2014
The USDA has implemented a new Farm Bill initiative that will provide relief to farmers affected by severe weather, including drought. Read More
ManagementGreenfield Scholars Program Aims To Sustain Agronomy Wo…
October 21, 2014
The program encourages talented students to study agronomy, crop and soil sciences while cultivating networks to develop the necessary workforce to sustain the profession. Read More
Paul SchrimpfPrecision Ag: Taking It To The Hill
October 21, 2014
A new coalition took the good news message of precision agriculture to Washington, DC, last month. Read More
ManagementUSDA Awards $18 Million In Small Business Research Gran…
October 21, 2014
The grants will provide high quality, advanced research and development that will lead to technological innovations and solutions for American agriculture. Read More
FertilizerCF Industries Terminates Merger Discussions With Yara I…
October 21, 2014
CF Industries Holdings and Yara International have terminated their discussions regarding a potential merger of equals transaction. Read More
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Ranked A Top 10 Biotech Employer For Third tim…
October 20, 2014
Syngenta ranked in the top 10 among the world’s top biotech employers, according to an annual survey conducted by Science magazine. Read More
CropLife 100Wheat Growers Break Ground For New Facility At Kennebec
October 20, 2014
Wheat Growers has broke ground for a state-of-the-art shuttle loader grain handling, fertilizer and agronomy facility in Kennebec, SD. Read More
FertilizerVerdesian Life Sciences Signs Agreement With Los Alamos…
October 20, 2014
Verdesian Life Sciences has signed a licensing agreement with Los Alamos National Laboratory to develop and market LANL’s latest nitrogen enhancement technology for plants. Read More
MicronutrientsStoller Group Announces Groundbreaking At New Office Bu…
October 20, 2014
Jerry Stoller, founder and president of Stoller Group, announced the groundbreaking at the site of the company’s future headquarters in Read More
Crop InputsBioSafe Systems Opens New Production Facility In Nevada
October 20, 2014
BioSafe Systems has completed construction of a state-of-art production facility in Sparks, NV, for its line of activated peroxygen products. Read More
Crop InputsPlatform Specialty Products To Acquire Arysta LifeScien…
October 20, 2014
Once the acquisition is complete, Platform Specialty Products will combine Arysta LifeScience with previously acquired companies Agriphar and Chemtura Crop Solutions. Read More
Seed/BiotechEPA Approves Dow’s Enlist Duo Herbicide
October 15, 2014
The Enlist Weed Control System, breakthrough technology to fight resistant and tough weeds, has received the long-awaited green light from federal regulatory authorities. Read More