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Dave Olson, Published December 10 2013

Minn-Dak CEO says growers will likely lose money in 2013

FARGO – Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative growers will have a tough time making a profit on their 2013 crop, cooperative President and CEO Kurt Wickstrom said Tuesday at the co-op’s annual meeting at the Fargo Holiday Inn.

Minn-Dak’s anticipated $40-per-ton payment for the 2013 crop is down sharply from the 2012 payment of an estimated $75 a ton. 41st

Wickstrom didn’t elaborate on the financial ramifications for individual growers, but company officials said that overall, producers will receive about $100 million less than they did for the 2012 crop.

During American Crystal Sugar Co.’s annual meeting last week, the cooperative’s president and CEO, David Berg, said American Crystal growers faced losses of hundreds of dollars per acre based on a grower payment of about $38 per ton for the most recent crop.

Wickstrom said the lower payment planned for Minn-Dak growers is largely the result of depressed domestic sugar prices caused by imports from Mexico.

Although the grower payment amount for the 2013 crop is disappointing, cooperative officials said the crop itself was much better than initially anticipated, given a late planting and challenging weather conditions much of the growing season.

Late-season rain made the difference, Wickstrom said.

“The crop responded like we’ve never seen,” he said, adding that the latest crop yielded 25.4 tons per acre, with a sugar content of 16.4 percent.

Although he called it a good crop, Wickstrom said it was down from the previous year’s crop, which yielded 26.7 tons per acre and had “a very high sugar content” of 19.1 percent.

Company officials said though sugar prices are creating challenges for the domestic sugar industry, Minn-Dak has no plans to curb capital improvements it embarked upon in 2012.

Those include a $65 million molasses desugaring project at the cooperative’s factory in Wahpeton. The project involves setting up equipment that will do a better job of extracting sugar from the molasses created during the sugar refining process.

The company is also working on a $5.5 million project that will allow it to package sugar in large “super sacks” that weigh 2,000 pounds when filled.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555