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
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100BRANDT Commemorates National Ag Day
March 20, 2015
The Illinois agriculture community gathered at BRANDT global headquarters on March 18 to celebrate National Ag Day behind this year's theme Sustaining Future Generations. Read More
Wheat Growers, North Central Farmers Elevator Pursue Merger
CropLife 100Wheat Growers, North Central Farmers Elevator Pursue Merger
March 3, 2015
Two CropLife 100 retailers — South Dakota Wheat Growers (ranked No. 11) and North Central Farmers Elevator (No. 19) — have entered into a Letter of Intent to unify the two companies into a newly named cooperative. Read More
Growmark Group
CropLife 100GROWMARK In 2015: Back, To The Future
March 2, 2015
The nation’s third largest ag retail organization is simultaneously moving forward while remembering its past. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Expands Sanders Brand In The South
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle has acquired Hopkins Seed and Chemical in Qulin, MO, which expands the company's Sanders brand to nine Southern states. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Launches New Providence Agriculture Location In Indiana
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings — ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100 — has established a new retail location in New Castle, IN, which will operate as part of Pinnacle's Providence Agriculture brand. Read More
Carl Casale of CHS
CropLife 100Cooperative CHS Returns $518 Million To Owners
February 23, 2015
The 2015 cash return to owners is based on CHS net income of $1.1 billion, the company's second highest on record. Read More
Latest News
FungicidesSyngenta Suing Willowood Over Azoxystrobin Fungicide
March 27, 2015
Syngenta announced today that it has sued agrochemical maker Willowood, LLC., for patent and copyright infringement, as well as unfair Read More
ManagementRetail Week: The Future Of Mycogen Seeds; The 4Rs At Na…
March 27, 2015
Editors Eric Sfiligoj and Matt Hopkins discuss recent trips, including a look at the future of Mycogen Seeds at Dow Read More
Eric SfiligojMonsanto Hears The WHO
March 27, 2015
Another challenge to the safety of glyphosate, and the responses from supporters and opponents, calls to mind a classic Dr. Seuss story. Read More
Industry NewsMonty’s Plant Food Expands Sales Team
March 27, 2015
Monty’s Plant Food Company, a leader in natural soil enhancement and  plant fertility products, has hired Andrew Bullock as a Read More
Crop InputsSyngenta Louisiana Plant Poised For 2015 Production
March 26, 2015
As the 2015 planting season gets underway, growers across the country will need crop protection products to combat pests and Read More
Lake Erie Nutrient Stewardship
LegislationOhio Lawmakers Finalize Phosphorus Restrictions
March 25, 2015
State lawmakers on Wednesday finalized new rules designed to curb toxic algal blooms on Lake Erie, calling the regulations a major step forward in addressing the problem. Read More
Spreaders17 Fertilizer Spreaders For 2015
March 25, 2015
Manufacturers shoot for versatility and accuracy in this year's crop of fertilizer spreaders. Read More
Industry NewsMonty’s Hires Mid-South Product Consultant
March 25, 2015
Monty's Plant Food Co. has hired Matt Woodring as a Product Consultant for portions of Central Kentucky and Tennessee.    Read More
StewardshipMapShots Integrates With DriftWatch
March 23, 2015
Growers and agricultural providers using AgStudio FARM and AgStudio PRO can now view vital information about specialty crops and apiaries through a recent integration with the DriftWatch Specialty Crop Site Registry from FieldWatch, Inc. Read More
Crop InputsWorld Health Organization Report Contradicts Scientific…
March 23, 2015
A new report from the World Health Organization has classified glyphosate with a “2A” rating as a probable carcinogen, a Read More
Eric SfiligojSeed Treatment Stays Necessary
March 20, 2015
Grower-customers looking to scale back spending in 2015 won’t consider seed treatment, say experts. Read More
HerbicidesMARCH MADNESS: Industry Rallies Around Glyphosate Safet…
March 20, 2015
A newly published report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies the herbicide glyphosate as a "2A-rated possible carcinogen" and the ag industry responds by circling the wagons. Read More
ManagementRetail Week: Precision survey, a technology acquisition…
March 20, 2015
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sflilgoj discuss recent travel, the upcoming precision adoption survey, and an unusual sighting at a Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Commemorates National Ag Day
March 20, 2015
The Illinois agriculture community gathered at BRANDT global headquarters on March 18 to celebrate National Ag Day behind this year's theme Sustaining Future Generations. Read More
Crop InputsBioSafe Launching TerraGrow Soil Inoculant
March 20, 2015
TerraGrow is a blend of beneficial bacterial and fungal spores and nutrients carefully designed to promote healthier soil and crops. Read More
Winter Wheat
AdjuvantsMax Systems Debuts New Adjuvant NanoRevolution 2.0
March 18, 2015
Added to a tank mix of glyphosate at the conservative rate of two to four ounces per acre, NanoRevolution 2.0 has proven effective in killing resistant weed species that had already had up to two applications of the leading glyphosate product. Read More
Photo credit: United Soybean Board/the Soybean Checkoff
Seed/BiotechAgnition Launches Microbial Catalyst Seed Treatment
March 18, 2015
Agnition it has launched Commence for Soybeans, a microbial catalyst seed treatment for soybeans that stimulates microbial activity for healthier soil and a superior growth environment. Read More
4R Certified, Nutrient Stewardship Council,
StewardshipTyler Grain & Fertilizer Now 4R Certified
March 18, 2015
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program has announced Tyler Grain & Fertilizer Co. in Smithville, OH, has been added to Read More