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Published April 16, 2009, 09:01 PM

N.D. state mill back in black

After $21 million in losses over nine months, North Dakota’s state Mill and Elevator is back in the black.

By: Dale Wetzel, Associated Press

BISMARCK — After $21 million in losses over nine months, North Dakota’s state Mill and Elevator is back in the black.

Vance Taylor, the manager of the state-owned flour mill, told the Industrial Commission on Thursday that the mill made almost $4.2 million in profits during January, February and March.

Taylor said he expects the mill to make about $4.8 million in the current three-month period. The Grand Forks facility’s budget year ends June 30.

“That should give us some good momentum going into the next year,” Taylor said in an interview. “Hopefully, with more stable markets, it will be a more normal year for us, with nice profits.”

The flour mill’s losses from last April through December 2008 were exaggerated by difficulties in the grain futures market, which prompted the Industrial Commission to hire an accounting firm and consultant to revamp the mill’s hedging procedures.

Taylor said unusually large hedging gains were one of the reasons the mill recorded its $4.19 million quarterly profit from January through March.

Flour shipments also rose 3.5 percent during the three months to 2.34 million hundredweight, including a 26 percent increase in bulk sales, the mill’s financial report said.

“I think we’re seeing some of the concern about the economy lessen maybe a little bit,” Taylor said. “Restaurant business is starting to pick up some as we go forward.”

The Industrial Commission is made up of Gov. John Hoeven, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring. Hoeven, in an interview, said he was pleased with the mill’s quarterly results.

“They are back in a profitable situation, and they’re moving in the right direction, with a program in place that the members of the Industrial Commission believe is a much better hedging program,” Hoeven said. “The state mill is on the right track.”

Goehring said many food processors and individual farmers were whipsawed last year by the grain futures markets.

“I understand what happened last year, because it happened to a lot of people,” Goehring said. “Anybody dealing with a volatile market certainly ended up being subjected to a lot of painful reminders of what happens when it goes up and down so fast.”