Corey Guza Receives The Nature Conservancy’s 2022 Conservation Excellence Agribusiness Award

Director of research and agronomy at Michigan Sugar Company a leader in helping sugarbeet farmers implement sustainable growing practices

Corey Guza (left) and Ben Wickerham (right) hold the framed agribusiness award.
Conservation Excellence Corey Guza, director of research and agronomy at Michigan Sugar Company accepts The Nature Conservancy's 2022 Conservation Excellence Agribusiness Award. © Rebecca Hagerman

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The Nature Conservancy in Michigan (TNC) today announced Corey Guza, PhD, director of research and agronomy for Michigan Sugar Company, as the recipient of TNC’s 2022 Conservation Excellence Agribusiness Award. The award was presented Tuesday, January 10, during the Michigan Agri-Business Association’s 90th annual Winter Conference and Trade Show at The Lansing Center.

“At The Nature Conservancy, we are proud to partner with innovators across the agriculture sector to help implement healthy soil practices that grow better crops, improve water quality and help protect fields against severe weather events like drought and downpours,” said Ben Wickerham, agriculture program director for The Nature Conservancy in Michigan. “Corey has been a leading voice in supporting sustainable sugarbeet farming practices, and his efforts have made an indelible impact on Michigan agriculture.”

Quote: Ben Wickerham

Corey has been a leading voice in supporting sustainable sugarbeet farming practices, and his efforts have made an indelible impact on Michigan agriculture.

TNC Agriculture Program Director in Michigan

Last year, TNC, in partnership with Michigan Sugar, received a $1.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help offset costs for farmers who want to implement strip tillage on their sugarbeet farms. Over the next four years, TNC and Michigan Sugar will work to convert up to 10 sugarbeet farms in the Saginaw Valley to strip tillage and treat more than 6,000 acres with strip till and cover crops.

“My focus on sustainability at Michigan Sugar Company has been studying production practices that improve sugarbeet production and profitability in an environmentally sound manner. The focus in this area includes studying nutrient management and the relationship between nutrients, the environment and sugarbeet production,” Guza said. “It is an honor to be recognized by The Nature Conservancy, and I accept this award on behalf of the entire Michigan Sugar team that is working toward a more sustainable future. It truly is a team effort.”

Quote: Corey Guza, PhD

It is an honor to be recognized by The Nature Conservancy, and I accept this award on behalf of the entire Michigan Sugar team that is working toward a more sustainable future. It truly is a team effort.

Director of Research and Agronomy for Michigan Sugar Company

Guza was raised on a sugarbeet, dry bean, corn, soybean, wheat and dairy farm near Harbor Beach. He earned his bachelor’s degree in crop and soil sciences from Michigan State University, his master’s degree in crop science from Oregon State University and his doctorate in crop and soil sciences focused on extension and studying the relationship between corn and weeds from MSU.

He came to work as an agronomist at Michigan Sugar in 2003. He later worked for Winfield United, a division of Land O’Lakes, as a region agronomist covering Michigan, Ontario, Quebec, and parts of Ohio and Indiana. He returned to Michigan Sugar in the fall of 2016 as the director of agronomy.

During his time at Michigan Sugar, Guza has worked with staff to identify research opportunities, evaluate data and assist field consultants and growers with educational training and support. His longtime support for and dedication to Saginaw Valley farmers has positioned him as a trusted advisor to both sugarbeet growers and his research peers.

“Corey has spent more than a decade supporting Michigan’s sugarbeet growers, and we have no doubt his efforts will be felt by generations of family farmers,” said James Ruhlman, chief operating officer at Michigan Sugar Company. “The sugarbeet industry is quickly becoming a champion for sustainable agriculture, and here in Michigan that credit goes to Corey, along with our world-class research and agronomy team and our farming families.”

Last year, Guza led Michigan Sugar in co-developing a conservation proposal that netted nearly $1 million to support education and training, promotion and technical assistance for the adoption of climate-smart practices in Michigan’s sugarbeet-growing region. These efforts will help the cooperative better estimate climate-smart-practice benefits within sugarbeet production.

Guza also has been advancing Michigan Sugar’s sustainability mission through the exploration of conservation-related research trials, including using compost as a nematode deterrent, rye cover crops as an invasive weed deterrent and multiple 4R-related fertilizer application methods for sugarbeets.    

“I applaud Corey and Michigan Sugar Company for earning this recognition,” said Chuck Lippstreu, president of the Michigan Agri-Business Association and a member of The Nature Conservancy in Michigan’s Board of Trustees. “I want to thank them for their commitment to advancing Michigan agriculture, partnering with farmers and organizations such as The Nature Conservancy to advance on-farm stewardship.” 

About Michigan Sugar Company

Michigan Sugar Company was founded in 1906 when six smaller sugar companies merged their operations. In 2002, Michigan Sugar Company became a grower-owned cooperative, and in 2004, it merged with Monitor Sugar Company to form the company that exists today.

Michigan Sugar Company is headquartered in Bay City and has sugarbeet processing facilities in Bay City, Caro, Croswell and Sebewaing, Michigan. Its nearly 900 grower-owners plant and harvest up to 160,000 acres of sugarbeets each year in 20 Michigan counties, as well as Ontario, Canada. Those beets are sliced at the factories and turned into about 1.2 billion pounds of sugar annually. That sugar is sold to industrial, commercial and retail customers under the Pioneer brand.

Michigan Sugar Company has 980 year-round employees and an additional 1,100 seasonal workers. The company’s annual payroll is more than $75 million, and its annual direct economic impact is about $600 million.

Michigan Sugar Company is the third largest of nine sugarbeet processing companies in the United States, and Michigan is one of 11 states where sugarbeets are grown in the country.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. The Nature Conservancy is working to make a lasting difference around the world in 77 countries and territories (41 by direct conservation impact and 36 through partners) through a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit or follow @nature_press on X.