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Minn-Dak expects payments to hit $180 million

FARGO, N.D. - There was plenty of good news at Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative's annual meeting in Fargo last week.

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Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative CEO David Roche discusses finances with member-owners during the group's annual meeting in Fargo, N.D.

FARGO, N.D. - There was plenty of good news at Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative's annual meeting in Fargo last week.

Growers harvested 99 percent of their planted sugar beet acres and the crop yielded more than 3.1 million tons, said Minn-Dak President and CEO David Roche.

The crop will garner growers an estimated payment of $180 million.

Some were concerned early on that the 2010 harvest would be a repeat of challenging conditions growers have experienced over the past three years, said Minn-Dak board chairman Doug Etten.

In 2008, only 69 percent of sugar beet acres were harvested. It was 84 percent last year. This summer's rains stopped before harvest and temperatures rose, he said. It gave growers a good window to complete the harvest.

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Sugar content wasn'tt at record levels but, at 16.8 percent, was higher than the last two years.

Almost all of Minn-Dak's sugar beet acres were planted with Roundup Ready seed, Roche said. The cooperative, as well as sugar beet processors and growers throughout the country, is anxiously waiting to see if the U.S. Department of Agriculture will issue permits or grant a partial deregulation to allow growers to use GMO seed.

Uncertainty exists about the availability of conventional beet seed and the chemicals needed for effective weed control, he said.

Roche and Etten applauded Seventh District Congressman Doug Peterson's work for sugar beet producers. Although he will no longer be the House ag committee chairman, they said they are thankful for Peterson's continued service on the ag committee and his strong support of the industry.

Congress was made over in the 2010 general election. There will be 93 new House members and 16 new senators plus new ag committee chairs in both chambers.

"There is much work to be done in educating these new members of Congress on the finer points of our sugar program," Roche said.

Sugar consumption is up in the United States, Etten said. It has grown over the past three to four years in the sweetener market . The Corn Refiners Association has petitioned the FDA to rename high fructose corn syrup corn sugar. The sugar industry will defend its brand, all-natural sugar, he said.

"In the process of defending our brand, it is not our intent to disparage corn sweeteners in any way...after all, most of us are also corn growers," Etten said.

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Sugar imports from Mexico, as part of the NAFTA agreement, have been absorbed by the market with the increase in sugar consumption, Roche said. Concern exists about Mexico's transatlantic sugar purchases, which may make Mexico a conduit for sugar imports.

"We believe there needs to be continuing discussions to try to maintain stability and integrity in our markets," he said.

Minn-Dak directors Russell Mauch of Barney, N.D; Dennis Klosterman of Mooreton, N.D.; and Dennis Butenhoff of Barnesville were re-elected. Mauch, however, declined nomination as board treasurer due to his responsibilities as president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association.

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