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CHS pact signals change for Minn-Dak Growers

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — One of the region’s signature specialty crops marketing and export companies is making a marketing shift that its longtime leader hopes will lead to a change in ownership and management.

Harris Peterson, president, owner and general manager of Minn-Dak Growers Ltd., confirmed to Agweek that CHS Inc. will handle the company’s contracts with farmers. He hopes it will be a “first step” in a change in ownership and management.

All of the production acres that would have contracted through the Minn-Dak Growers now will be through CHS.

“I’m 88 years old and I’m ready to quit,” Peterson says.

Peterson says it’ll take awhile to get integrated with the CHS way of doing things.

Peterson, known throughout the industry for his workaholic schedule and longevity, started the company in 1967, but has been in the business for 65 years.

Minn-Dak Growers is a worldwide supplier of mustard, buckwheat and safflower for food ingredients. It was a cooperative for 26 years and was then linked with Harvest States Cooperative, predecessor to CHS (formerly Cenex Harvest States). The company includes a processing plant in Grand Forks, N.D., as well as facilities in Drayton, N.D., and Dickinson, N.D., and a revamped facility in Donaldson, Minn.

“Our Minn-Dak growers stand to benefit greatly from an agronomic, sales, marketing and research standpoint,” Peterson says.

Peterson acknowledges that he’s been interested in selling his company for the past five years and has had serious discussions with four other companies. He says the uncertainty has meant he’s cut back his staff, including marketing, because he didn’t want to hire people who would be redundant in a merger or acquisition.

“It’s been slowing down in the past couple of years,” Peterson says.

For efficiency

CHS Sunflower president Robert Deraas, based in Grandin, N.D., was quoted in a press release from CHS on Feb. 19, describing the agreement. Deraas called the agreement an “efficient way to bring enhanced services and market opportunities to area growers. It’s one more way we demonstrate our commitment to helping our owners grow their businesses.”

Lisa Graham-Peterson, a spokesperson for CHS, says the company wouldn’t be “speculating beyond the marketing agreement,” about potential acquisitions.

“They have many elevators in the western part of the state so that’s going to help us,” Peterson says of CHS. “Now farmers won’t have to haul them so far. Even though we pay them a freight subsidy, it doesn’t compensate for having to go 50 miles and deliver at harvest-time.”

Peterson notes the agreement gives Minn-Dak growers access to the agronomic field expertise and contracted services from CHS, along with expanded marketing support.