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Wendy Reuer, Published December 04 2012

Minn.-Dak Farmers Co-op sees dip in 2012 payments

FARGO – Wahpeton-based Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative reported Tuesday that payments of $155 million made to its shareholders and growers on Aug. 31 were 14 percent less than the previous year.

The decrease in gross revenue for the 2011-12 crop was due to difficult growing conditions and low yields per acre, Dave Roche, Minn-Dak president and CEO, said before the co-op’s annual meeting in Fargo.

Sugar prices are also nearly 40 percent less than a year ago, said Doug Etten, chairman of the co-op’s board of directors.

The low prices were attributed in part to a bumper crop of sugar beets in Mexico, Roche said. The high yields strengthen the market supply during a time when demand fell.

The 2012-13 crop appears to be much larger than in 2011-12, with an estimated yield of 27 tons per acre and sugar content higher than average at 19 percent, co-op leaders said.

Minn-Dak predicted member payments next year will increase to about $226 million.

While Minn-Dak looked back on harvest, during its 40th annual meeting Tuesday, it continues to wait for a decision on the federal farm bill.

Congressional action on the farm bill, which outlines the U.S. sugar program, stalled over the summer and the latest version, written in 2008, expired this fall.

Jim Wiesemeyer, senior vice president of policy and trade issues for Informa Economics, said he doubts any “real negotiation” on the farm bill will happen until early next year.

Wiesemeyer, a guest speaker at the Minn-Dak meeting Tuesday, has been in Washington, D.C., monitoring the movement on the farm bill.

“A good steady farm bill is critical to this industry,” he said.

American Crystal Sugar Co. and the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association will hold their annual joint meeting Thursday in Fargo.

American Crystal Sugar Co. has reported 2011 gross payments of $796 million to Red River Valley Sugar Growers Cooperative members.

American Crystal forecasts $537 million in payments for next year. Crystal paid out about $521 million to its members in 2010.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530

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