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Minn-Dak Growers, CHS pact could be good

FARGO, N.D. — At least one grower who contracts with Minn-Dak Growers Ltd., of Grand Forks, N.D., says he’s hopeful about a new marketing agreement between the specialty crops processor and giant agricultural cooperative CHS Inc.

Bill Flaget of Halliday, N.D., says his family grows buckwheat and has grown mustard and safflower for Minn-Dak Growers through the years. He says he would have liked the company to become a cooperative. He likes the fact that CHS is a financially stable partner, and hopes it will continue to support the specialty crops Minn-Dak Growers produces.

Harris Peterson, 88, president of Minn-Dak Growers, on Feb. 19 announced a new relationship with CHS to “jointly contract, service and market certain commodities for the 2014 and 2015 growing seasons.” Peterson, who has run the company for more than 46 years, says producers in 2014 will receive contracts that still say Minn-Dak Growers on them.

CHS Sunflower President Robert Deraas declined to elaborate on the arrangement.

2014 contracts

Minn-Dak Growers on Feb. 14 started talking to potential buckwheat, safflower and mustard growers for the 2014 crop year. Minn-Dak deals with the customers and works to “match up” the grower contracts with the market.

Peterson says Minn-Dak had a projected date of March 4 for sending out the contracts. That will be delayed a few days because of a temporary computer problem in Grand Forks, unrelated to the new CHS deal.

Several growers contacted by Agweek declined to talk about the deal, which isn’t fully negotiated.

Flaget, 64, has grown specialty crops for Minn-Dak Growers since the early 1980s. He says the announcement means “there’s a chance it (Minn-Dak Growers) can continue … I would say we had been a little bit concerned about where Minn-Dak might be going,” he says, noting Peterson’s one-of-a-kind personality, and importance to a business he’d built.

Peterson had proposed making the company a grower-owned cooperative one winter in the late 1990s, but Flaget says the idea didn’t have a strong enough grower-leader. Also, at that time, some growers were “gun-shy” because they had invested separately in AgGrow Oils LLC, of Carrington, N.D., which failed in 1999.

Flaget says specialty crops typically offer a premium to other conventional crops, but not always. He contracted 2013 mustard for $40 per hundredweight and he had a 1,000-pound crop, for a gross income of $400 per acre, which is good for that part of the country. He says last year’s mustard suffered from too much moisture and perhaps some herbicide carryover from a previous crop.