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R.D. Offutt Potato Empire

From: KKWE Niijii Radio
Series: Honor the Earth Environmental Features
Length: 30:03

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This is an investigative report into the environmental effects of R.D. Offutt, a potato growing company based in Park Rapids, Minnesota. R.D. Offutt provides the French fries for McDonald's and produces more than a billion pounds of potatoes each year at Lamb/Weston processing plant in Park Rapids. This report explains the impacts of pesticides and fertilizers in Minnesota and beyond, as explained by representatives of the Department of Natural Resources and R.D. Offutt farm manager Nick David.

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This week’s program will examine the best management practices of agribusiness R.D. Offutt Company and the effects its irrigation, fertilization, crop rotation, pesticide application, and agricultural run-off have had on the environment of the Straight River watershed in central Minnesota.  R.D. Offutt Company is the largest potato producer in the United States with a 190,000-acre farming operation that employs 1,500 people.  Additionally, Ronald Donald Offutt owns food processing companies in Nebraska, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Minnesota.
The R.D. Offutt Company is comprised of a variety of businesses. Today we will also investigate the integration of R.D. Offutt Company with affiliates Lamb-Weston/R.D.O. Frozen, R.D.O. Equipment, ConAgra Foods, and McDonald’s.  For instance, R.D. Offutt Company is the primary supplier for the Lamb-Weston/R.D.O. Frozen potato processing plant in Park Rapids, Minnesota, which processes approximately 3 million pound of potatoes per day or more than 1 billion pounds of potatoes per year.  
The Lamb-Weston/R.D.O. Frozen Company has a contract with ConAgra Foods distribution to supply much of McDonald’s French fries and hash browns.  To give an example of the size and influence of this agribusiness giant: six cents on each dollar Americans spend on food goes to ConAgra Foods.  Additionally, R.D. Offutt, a fourth generation farmer, and his father began farming in 1968 with approximately 70,000 dollars’ worth of equipment.  Now R.D.O. Equipment owns and operates fifty-nine dealerships in nine states, making it owner of the largest network of John Deere construction and agricultural equipment dealerships in the U.S. while employing 1,700 people.  
R.D. Offutt’s position as the sole proprietor of R.D. Offutt Company has not only benefited his personal fortune, which now exceeds 500 million dollars, but the entire farming network, especially at its home of operations in central Minnesota.  Minnesota has strict laws against farming corporations such the Corporate Farm Law and Alien Farmers in Minnesota Act.  However, R.D. Offutt Company is exempt from these laws, since R.D. Offutt remains the sole proprietor, has general and limited liability partnerships reached by R.D.O.’s agricultural unit, and R.D. Offutt Company remains an authorized farm corporation, an otherwise-prohibited business structure.  
Some call these exemptions loopholes, such as the ability for R.D. Offutt to purchase “grandfathered” land owned or leased before certain dates or gifted or repossessed land, if disposed of within a specified period of time.  In other words, R.D. Offutt Company has been operating within a family trust network of farmers for the past 45 years.
In order to operate its 12-state agricultural unit, which cultivated more than 20,000 acres of potatoes in Minnesota alone this year, R.D. Offutt Company has developed self-imposed best management practices in accordance with regulations developed by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and Department of Natural Resources.  Some of these best management practices concern soil fertility, so R.D.O. can achieve a maximum desired yield of crops with minimal damage to the soil and surrounding environment in future years.  As a result, R.D. Offutt Company applies fertilizers according to levels determined by agronomists who study soil samples from management zones within fields.  

In this program we hear from R.D. Offutt Farm Manager Nick David and Department of Natural Resources hydrologists Michelle Walker and Darrin Hoverson. 

Piece Description

This week’s program will examine the best management practices of agribusiness R.D. Offutt Company and the effects its irrigation, fertilization, crop rotation, pesticide application, and agricultural run-off have had on the environment of the Straight River watershed in central Minnesota.  R.D. Offutt Company is the largest potato producer in the United States with a 190,000-acre farming operation that employs 1,500 people.  Additionally, Ronald Donald Offutt owns food processing companies in Nebraska, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Minnesota.
The R.D. Offutt Company is comprised of a variety of businesses. Today we will also investigate the integration of R.D. Offutt Company with affiliates Lamb-Weston/R.D.O. Frozen, R.D.O. Equipment, ConAgra Foods, and McDonald’s.  For instance, R.D. Offutt Company is the primary supplier for the Lamb-Weston/R.D.O. Frozen potato processing plant in Park Rapids, Minnesota, which processes approximately 3 million pound of potatoes per day or more than 1 billion pounds of potatoes per year.  
The Lamb-Weston/R.D.O. Frozen Company has a contract with ConAgra Foods distribution to supply much of McDonald’s French fries and hash browns.  To give an example of the size and influence of this agribusiness giant: six cents on each dollar Americans spend on food goes to ConAgra Foods.  Additionally, R.D. Offutt, a fourth generation farmer, and his father began farming in 1968 with approximately 70,000 dollars’ worth of equipment.  Now R.D.O. Equipment owns and operates fifty-nine dealerships in nine states, making it owner of the largest network of John Deere construction and agricultural equipment dealerships in the U.S. while employing 1,700 people.  
R.D. Offutt’s position as the sole proprietor of R.D. Offutt Company has not only benefited his personal fortune, which now exceeds 500 million dollars, but the entire farming network, especially at its home of operations in central Minnesota.  Minnesota has strict laws against farming corporations such the Corporate Farm Law and Alien Farmers in Minnesota Act.  However, R.D. Offutt Company is exempt from these laws, since R.D. Offutt remains the sole proprietor, has general and limited liability partnerships reached by R.D.O.’s agricultural unit, and R.D. Offutt Company remains an authorized farm corporation, an otherwise-prohibited business structure.  
Some call these exemptions loopholes, such as the ability for R.D. Offutt to purchase “grandfathered” land owned or leased before certain dates or gifted or repossessed land, if disposed of within a specified period of time.  In other words, R.D. Offutt Company has been operating within a family trust network of farmers for the past 45 years.
In order to operate its 12-state agricultural unit, which cultivated more than 20,000 acres of potatoes in Minnesota alone this year, R.D. Offutt Company has developed self-imposed best management practices in accordance with regulations developed by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and Department of Natural Resources.  Some of these best management practices concern soil fertility, so R.D.O. can achieve a maximum desired yield of crops with minimal damage to the soil and surrounding environment in future years.  As a result, R.D. Offutt Company applies fertilizers according to levels determined by agronomists who study soil samples from management zones within fields.  

In this program we hear from R.D. Offutt Farm Manager Nick David and Department of Natural Resources hydrologists Michelle Walker and Darrin Hoverson. 

Transcript

Colin Neary: Welcome. This is Colin Neary reporting for this week’s edition of, “Honor the Earth: Environmental Features Program,” which covers local, regional, and national stories on issues concerning the environment, energy companies, their impacts, and how community members can get involved in environmental policy.

This week’s program will examine the best management practices of agribusiness R.D. Offutt Company and the effects its irrigation, fertilization, crop rotation, pesticide application, and agricultural run-off have had on the environment of the Straight River watershed in central Minnesota. R.D. Offutt Company is the largest potato producer in the United States with a 190,000-acre farming operation that employs 1,500 people. Additionally, Ronald Donald Offutt owns food processing companies in Nebraska, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Minnesota.

The R.D. Offutt Company is co...
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