A New Green Revolution

June 28, 2022

Our world is going through a renaissance—a new green revolution, and South Dakota is perfectly positioned to lead that revolution. The green revolution of the 1950s and ’60s focused on increasing food production to meet the demands of the world population explosion after World War II. Advanced seed varieties and increased fertilizer use helped meet the need for more food. The new green revolution is different. It has two components that open the door to tremendous opportunity and will provide benefits for many generations.

The first component provides safe and renewable food, feed, fiber, and fuel for the world. New technologies are not only assisting farmers in reducing their carbon footprint, but the growing plants assist by capturing carbon dioxide from the air during photosynthesis and sequestering the carbon back into the soil. Farmers conserve soil and water while reducing fertilizer by utilizing cover crops, green crops, GPS technology, onboard computers, equipment sensors, and drone and satellite imagery. Today’s equipment inserts seed into the soil with near surgical accuracy while using reduced or no tillage. Desiccated crop material remains on top of the soil to protect it from wind and water erosion and help control weeds. Beneficial soil organisms slowly break down the crop material into nutrients for future crops, reducing fertilizer usage.

The second component of the new green revolution is the development of technologies that give rise to renewable, environmentally-friendly consumer and industrial bio-products and bio-processes. Today’s industrial processing facilities bear little resemblance to those built even ten years ago. Businesses are investing huge amounts of capital into new facilities with cutting-edge technologies that are worker safe, energy efficient, and scrub the water/air before it leaves their industrial complex. Environment, human health, and quality of life have become priorities for the products produced and the processes by which they are made.

Wholestone farms plans to build a new $500M swine processing facility at the industrial park near I-229 and Benson Road in Sioux Falls. It will have the capacity to process 3 million hogs annually during an eight-hour shift. The site provides the necessary utilities, water, transportation, and labor. Very few South Dakota, Iowa, or Minnesota sites meet all of those requirements. The benefits to Sioux Falls and surrounding communities are:

  • During covid, consumers expressed a need for local processing to shorten the transportation and storage supply chain, making food readily accessible in grocery stores during national emergencies.
  • Consumers prefer locally sourced foods. The hogs will be purchased from farmers in nearby communities.
  • The need for additional hogs will provide more opportunities for young farmers to stay in agriculture.
  • The demand for locally grown soybeans will increase by several million bushels annually to match the increased oil demand.
  • The plant is estimated to add $1.5 billion annually to Sioux Falls and nearby communities.

All of these things will play a role in revitalizing South Dakota communities from the atrophy of decades past. Technology and available raw materials (crop and livestock) make South Dakota the ideal place to produce renewable and environmentally responsible food and products for future generations while preserving our resources. Our small communities can once again prosper, and most importantly, our most valuable commodity, our children, can stay in South Dakota rather than leave home to make a living.

Jerry Schmitz

Executive Director of SD Soybean

Published in the 2022 Summer Soybean Leader