• When awareness of air pollution increases in the 1960s, Cargill upgrades the machinery at its grain processing plants to meet new environmental standards.
  • Swapping less efficient cyclone equipment for primary separator and fabric filter units (above), Cargill greatly improves air quality at its plants and, in effect, their surrounding communities.

Working to improve air quality

After the United States’ Clean Air Act passes in 1963, Cargill actively pursues solutions that cut down on the company’s grain dust emissions.

The 1960s signaled a new era of environmental concern—and action—in the United States. As the scientific community began to focus on the health effects of air pollution, the public turned its attention to air quality issues with a stronger sense of urgency. Congress enacted the Clean Air Act in 1963, which funded research into monitoring and controlling air pollution. Cargill was quick to respond to the calls for environmental cleanup, immediately getting to work to do its part to improve the nation’s air quality.

The company moved to upgrade its facilities, ensuring they complied with new government standards. Initially, Cargill focused on reducing the amount of grain dust its network of processing plants emitted.

Looking for ways to reduce emissions at key grain transfer points, Cargill conducted research at its grain laboratory. The company then installed dust-collection machinery, dustless ship-loading spouts and modern control systems at its facilities that replaced less efficient air cleaning equipment. “The results of Cargill’s research and development into controlling grain dust emissions have been shared with other members of the industry, contributing to the general progress the industry has made in reducing air pollution,” said Whitney MacMillan, who served as Cargill’s president during the transition.

“We will be a leader—not a reluctant follower. To do so is in our own best interests, both as good citizens and as prudent businessmen.”— Erwin Kelm, President of Cargill

A number of Cargill facilities were recognized for their work to improve air quality in the communities where they operated. In Illinois, the company received Chicago’s first-ever award for fighting air pollution. Nearby in the state of Ohio, the company’s four-year abatement project in Toledo earned a merit citation from the Commissioner of Air and Water Pollution Control. Similar awards were granted in Seattle, Washington, and Princeton, Indiana.

By responding to widespread public concern, Cargill helped set an example for environmentally friendly practices. The company’s focus on doing what is right for the environment continues today. In 2015, Cargill avoided more than one million metric tons of fossil fuel-based greenhouse gas emissions by using renewable energy.