Maintaining clean and healthy waterways is a top priority for the sugar industry, which is why the farmers of the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative (SMBSC) have taken action to help stamp out the effects of phosphorus.
And their efforts have garnered praise from conservationists and regulators alike.
In 1999, the SMBSC looked to increase the production capabilities of their factory in Renville, Minnesota, approximately 100 miles west of Minneapolis. Because sugar beets are approximately 75 percent water, processing more than 2 million tons of sugar beets a season requires the successful management of more than a million gallons of water a day. A new wastewater treatment plant was necessary.
In an effort to minimize phosphorus levels in the Minnesota River Basin, SMBSC worked in conjunction with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency during the permitting process to develop a plan to offset potential discharges from their wastewater treatment plant.
It’s the latest start ever as Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative growers begin full-scale harvest operations. U.S. Sen. Tina Smith heard the challenges facing growers as the cooperative’s President and CEO Steven Domm drove her to a field south of Renville, where she rode in a tractor as beets were lifted.
For immediate release: National Sugar Marketing LLC’s Management Board announced their selection of food industry leader Chris Simons, formerly of Cargill, as its next President and Chief Executive Officer. He succeeds Bill Smith, who has led National Sugar since its inception in 2011. Simons will assume day-to-day leadership of National Sugar on October 14, 2019. Smith will continue with National Sugar for the foreseeable future, to ensure a smooth transition and serve as an adviser to Simons and National Sugar on key initiatives.
Reported in West Central Tribune, 7/19/19 – By most measures, this past year was an “extremely challenging year” for the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative and its shareholders, according to Sagar Sunkavalli, the co-op’s manager of environmental affairs. Producers harvested 2.37 million tons of sugar beets last year, and sliced 2.22 million tons of them, in comparison to a record 3.67 million tons harvested one year earlier. Producers saw an average yield of 20.2 tons per acre, compared to 30.6 tons per acre the prior year. There was a silver lining in it all, according to Sunkavalli in a report he made Tuesday, July 16, to the Renville County Board of Commissioners. Thanks to continued investments in improved wastewater processing at the factory in Renville and operational changes, the cooperative’s environmental compliance was among its best ever. Full story.
Minnesota is the nation’s leading sugarbeet producer. As a result, sugarbeets play an important role in the state’s economy. Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative (SMBSC), located in Renville, is a major beet sugar extraction cooperative. Given its production and extraction role, SMBSC wanted to understand its contribution to the regional and state economy. The primary study area for the analysis is the 20-county region in which SMBSC shareholders grow sugarbeets. SMBSC partnered with the University of Minnesota Extension to study the economic impact of SMBSC.
For further reading, see below for SMBSC’s Economic Contribution infographic and the full economic contribution report.
Whether you would like to understand general safety or more in-depth knowledge of safety to protect yourself, workers, or family members from electrical, ATV, PTO, and other farm hazards, please Click Here to be forwarded to the National Farmers Union web page. The web site has several videos as well as key pointers to protect you from the hazard.
‘Roots in the ground’ is growing as a mantra among crop farmers experimenting with and using ‘cover crops’. Oats, rye, turnips, radishes, and various seed mixes planted after harvest help protect soil from wind and water erosion, soak up excess nutrients, and build up organic matter. Today, as the soil, water quality, and production benefits of using cover crops are better known, acceptance in interest in the practice are growing. Photo: Fall growth of cover crop in soybeans.
In south central Minnesota the largest number of cover crop acres is being claimed by members of the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Co-op in Renville County. Since 2000, the co-op’s spring cover crop program has expanded to include more than 80 percent of its total of about 120,000 member acres. While most of the co-op’s cover crop acres are planted in spring, some growers are trying fall cover crops, which offer greater benefits.
The co-op’s research and monitoring show an average yield increase of $50 per acre on cover crop fields. “We now understand that it’s good for both the beets and the soil,” says Todd Geselius, vice president of agriculture. Growers receive $4 per acre from the co-op for cover crop seeds, and can also seek technical and financial assistance for fall-planted cover crops from the Renville County SWCD office and Hawk Creek Watershed Project.
The initial incentive came from a requirement in the wastewater permit for the co-op’s Renville beet processing plant. In order to use a different ditch for treated outfall from the plant, the co-op agreed to achieve phosphorus reduction credits with cover crops and livestock exclusion from a ditch at Revier Cattle Company south of Olivia. Since 2005 the co-op has more than doubled the number of phosphorus-reduction credits annually, from the required 6,500 to an average of about 14,600. One credit equals one pound of phosphorus, a nutrient when in water can produce up to 500 pounds of algae. Articles about the co-op’s cover crop program:
Cost-share available from SWCD for fall-planted cover crops
Most of the co-op’s cover crops are being planted in spring, which protects emerging beet plants. Fall-planted cover crops extend the benefits to soil over the winter. The Renville SWCD/Hawk Creek Watershed cost-share program is for fall cover crops to protect the soil, build soil health, feed soil biology, suppress weeds and improve soil structure. “Our program is to provide financial assistance for local farmers to seed a fall cover crop to keep the soil covered through the fall, winter, spring,” says Holly Hatlewick of the Renville SWCD. Renville County producers using fall cover crops are reporting a five- to seven-bushel yield increase on their cash crops the growing season after they have a fall cover crop, Hatlewick says.
One of my favorite times of the year is when harvest is underway. The crispness in the air and the smell of what farmers harvest is as pleasing as a warm apple pie out of the oven. When harvest wraps up, I like to go to the local café and listen to the farmers talk about yield and the little kid discussion of what brand of equipment or seed is better.
A new joy for me during this time of year is seeing all of the Cooperative team members working together with a purpose. That purpose is Zero Lost Time Injuries, 100% Environmental Compliance, and Uncompromised Quality. It is a purpose worth working for. We all provide for something, ourselves, our families, our employees, our communities, and our Cooperative.
To our knowledge since the safety records have been kept, this 2017 beet harvest saw the lowest incident rate ever. With the help of everyone working together, we are accomplishing greater things. We thank you for all of your efforts. This would not be accomplished without your commitment and diligence in the process.
Even though we saw our lowest internal incident rate, we experienced a higher amount of shareholder incidents on site. Most of these incidents were in the form of equipment damage
from driving onto the piler. However, there were a few from truck drivers that were getting cut, pinched, or tripping on a pile site. To help out with the recognition of hazards on the pile site, we have developed the Truckers Safety Rules and Truckers Safety video. If you have not viewed them or heard of them before, click on the hyperlink with the name and you will be directed to them.
On a positive note, we are thankful when a shareholder reports an incident. Whether it is minor or severe, it makes us aware of an issue and helps us work to figure out a solution to eliminate the hazard. This can be done by contacting the Agriculturalist or the Harvest Supervisor. Once you have talked with them, they will ask you to complete an incident investigation. This helps us to determine the extent of the incident, what caused it, and what to
do to eliminate the incident in the future.
Your input is also valuable before an incident occurs. If you observe a hazardous situation, please let us know. We all have different things we look at every day. Sometimes it is the difference in our perspective that allows one person to see a potential hazard while another does not. We will work together on a method to minimize or eliminate the situation.
Once again as we put this harvest in the books, Thank You for your efforts on many levels, Safety, Environmental, and Quality. Without your help, the Cooperative would not be what it is today.
In anticipation of the upcoming harvest season, it’s important for those in farming communities to be well-prepared and safe. Long hours, powerful machinery and isolated jobs all make the risk of farm-related injuries, which can often be fatal, quite high. However, remembering a few dependable safety practices and picking up a new tip or two can help you avoid a serious accident. To read more from the Mayo Clinic article please Click Here.
Harvest is fast approaching, though we still have some time to complete some key maintenance on the devices used for harvest and storage of grains. The article titled “TRACTOR SAFETY: 5 STEPS TO PREP FOR A SAFE HARVEST SEASON”, discusses several steps we may take to help heighten safety surrounding the operation of tractors. Please Click Here to be directed to the article. Have a Safe day!