‘Seeking something better’: Driving Soy rolls through Rice County

As a farmer and Rice County Sheriff’s Deputy, Derek Estrem sees dual benefits with the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council’s “Driving Soy” campaign.

“I want the best and the greatest in Rice County,” Estrem said at his third-generation family farm, where MSR&PC highlighted the state-wide promotion. “It was rewarding to be asked to put on these tires because I grow the product that goes into making it.”

“Driving Soy” is giving each of Minnesota’s 44 organized soybean counties the opportunity to donate a set of Goodyear’s soy-based Eagle Enforcer All-Weather tires – designed specifically for first-responder vehicles stationed in all-season climates like Minnesota’s – to their local sheriff departments. 

Members of the Rice/Dakota Soybean and Corn Board joined Estrem, along with Minnesota Department of Agriculture Deputy Commissioner Andrea Vaubel, Rice County Sheriff Troy Dunn, Minnesota Soybean Growers Association Executive Director Joe Smentek, commodity group leaders and legislative assistants to Rep. Angie Craig and Rep. Jim Hagedorn.

MSR&PC’s Mike Youngerberg (second to left) speaks about value-added soy products during the Council’s Driving Soy event at the farm of Rice County Deputy Derek Estrem.

“This campaign is good for consumers, good for the farmers and good for the environment,” said Mike Youngerberg, MSR&PC Senior Director of Product Development & Commercialization. “We see advancements happening all over the place in agriculture, and these tires are a prime example. People are seeking something better.”

Thinking innovation

Goodyear has released four lines of tires with soybean oil compounds: Assurance WeatherReady (2017), Eagle Enforcer All Weather (2018), Eagle Exhilarate (2019) and Assurance Comfort Drive (2020). About a bushel of soybeans is needed for each set of soy-based tires. Goodyear has increased its use of soybeans by 73% since 2018 and has pledged to fully replace all of its petroleum-driven oils with soybean oil by 2040. 

“When I think of soybean growers, I think of innovation,” Vaubel said. “What’s exciting about this campaign is the community aspect. … I’m proud to work with these folks.”

Estrem said the soy-based tires on his 2019 Dodge Charger will help the department respond to situations in all weather conditions. A second pair of the tires will be added to an SUV within the Rice County department. Dunn praised the grassroots campaign, and teased Estrem for his eagerness in wanting to be the first deputy to test the Eagle Enforcer tires.

“He was banging at the door,” Dunn said, adding, “We really appreciate the support of the soybean growers across Minnesota, especially Rice County.”

In addition to the county promotion, the Council will give away Goodyear’s popular Assurance WeatherReady tires, also made with soybean oil, at this year’s Farmfest (Aug. 3-5) and Big Iron (Sept 13-15). A third set of the WeatherReady tires, which are made for everyday vehicles, will be available through an online promotion that will allow farmers to nominate worthy nonprofits in their communities.  

“This is a win for everyone,” Smentek said. “Law enforcement gets a free set of tires, we’re reducing our use of petroleum and we have a new use for our soybeans.”

Estrem grows soybeans and corn with his brother, Michael, and uncle, David, along with his cousins. The Estrems, led by Derek’s late father, Kevin, who died in 2020, are past recipients of Rice County’s Farm Family of the Year.

“It’s an honor to have these tires,” Deputy Estrem said.

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