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Published February 27, 2012, 10:26 AM

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Plaintiffs argue Veblen dairy case to SD Supreme Court

By: Agweek Staff and Wire Reports, Agweek

Plaintiffs argue Veblen dairy case to SD Supreme Court

• FARGO, N.D. — Plaintiffs in a 2007 lawsuit against the MCC Dairy, the original milking cooperative once run by Rick Millner at Veblen, S.D., recently argued an appeal before the South Dakota Supreme Court in Pierre. Plaintiffs want to overturn a district court in Aberdeen, S.D., that on June 20 threw out their case. The high court is considering the appeal of District Court Judge Jack Von Wald, who had ruled against the plaintiffs. Appealing plaintiffs are a group of “minority shareholders,” in the original dairy, including MCC Dairy’s original chairman, Ralph Keintz of Eden, S.D., and the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate tribe who had exchanged some land for the dairy for some share ownership in it. The plaintiffs group originally filed suit on Nov. 20, 2007, saying the co-op had neglected its fiduciary duties in various ways, and sought “disgorgement of assets” obtained because of it. Among other things, the appellants tried to prevent MCC Dairy from holding a special meeting to dissolve the co-op and for officers of the co-op starting a competing dairy and other dairies, and comingling assets. After legal back-and-forth, MCC Dairy on Jan. 23, 2008 asked the district court for a summary judgment to end the suit. On June 20, Von Wald ruled in favor of the co-op, on the basis that the plaintiffs hadn’t demonstrated a difference of “issues of material fact.” Among other things, the plaintiffs argue the appellants were subject to oppression and prejudicial conduct, that the appellees breached fiduciary duties as majority shareholders and officers, that the establishment of Prairie Ridge Management (an umbrella management company) divided the loyalties of appellees. They also argue the appellees failed to maintain accurate financial records (especially through the use of pass-through accounting procedures), commingled assets, and may have been unjustly enriched from their relationship with MCC Dairy. In an interview with Agweek, Sandven declined to project how many weeks or months the Supreme Court will take to make a decision on the appeal. MCC Dairy eventually became Veblen East and Veblen West dairies, which later were purchased by Riverview Dairy of Morris, Minn.

Companies to study diesel refinery joint venture

• BISMARCK, N.D. — MDU Resources Group Inc. through its wholly owned subsidiary, WBI Holdings Inc. and Calumet Refining, LLC, an entity owned by the existing owners of the general partner of Calumet Specialty Products Partners L.P. Feb. 21 announced they have signed a nonbinding letter of intent to explore the feasibility of jointly building and operating a 20,000 barrel per day diesel refinery in southwestern North Dakota. The facility would process Bakken crude and market the diesel within the Bakken region. Site selection, permitting, crude oil feed procurement, marketing and engineering studies are currently underway. Upon successful completion of the project, Calumet Refining LLC expects to contribute its interest in the joint venture to Calumet in exchange for cash and/or partnership interests. “This project will capitalize on the capabilities and expertise of two strong companies to develop a facility that will serve demand for diesel by agriculture and industry in the rapidly developing Bakken play,” says Terry D. Hildestad, president and chief executive officer of MDU Resources. “We believe that our refining capabilities and their operating experience in the Bakken would be a strong combination. Both companies provide operational expertise and capability vital to the success of a large industrial project similar to this planned facility,” says Jennifer G. Straumins, president and chief operating officer of Calumet’s general partner.

ADM says job-cuts plan now will eliminate 1,200

• CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Archer Daniels Midland Co. said Feb. 21 that it is firing 175 people at its headquarters in Illinois as part of a plan to cut what it now says will be 1,200 mostly salaried jobs across the company. Decatur-based ADM said earlier this year that it planned to cut 1,000 jobs through a combination of layoffs and buyouts. The company wouldn’t provide specifics about where other cuts are happening, but it said it expected to be finished eliminating jobs in the United States last week. Elsewhere, the process will continue. “We expect a total of about 1,200 when we’re done with this process in the coming months,” ADM spokesman David Weintraub says. ADM says that in addition to the layoffs at its headquarters, 160 employees at the company’s other locations in Decatur, Ill., agreed to take buyouts. In all, the 335 positions amount to about 8 percent of the company’s roughly 4,000 workers in Decatur. The company is the largest employer in the city of 76,000. ADM has about 30,000 employees around the world. Aside from the Decatur headquarters, the company has corporate offices in Switzerland, Brazil and China. Company executives have said the job cuts and other measures will save ADM about $100 million. The company announced plans to cut its workforce just before announcing that its profits in its most recent quarter, while still $80 million, had dropped almost 90 percent.

Briefly . . .

• Diesel supplies: North Dakota’s oil patch is fueling unprecedented demand for diesel and supplies may tighten this spring as farmers take to their fields and construction work ramps up with the warm weather. North Dakota Petroleum Marketers Association president Mike Rud says his group has advised diesel users to stockpile the fuel in anticipation of scarce supplies this spring. State Tax Department records show that diesel fuel consumption in North Dakota has increased 51 percent since 2007, to more than 710 million gallons annually. Rud says the oil industry has replaced agriculture as the biggest user of diesel in the state. The fuel powers trucks and trains needed to move crude and materials. And he says it takes about 3,000 gallons of diesel each day to power one drill rig.