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Minn-Dak co-op sees need for more sugarbeets in coming years

At 50th annual meeting, company touts the success of rejuvenated beet processing plant.

Man standing at a podium
Kurt Wickstrom, CEO of Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative, speaks at the annual meeting on Dec. 8, 2022. Minn-Dak was celebrating 50 years as a sugarbeet co-op.
Jeff Beach / Agweek
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FARGO, N.D. — After a five -year program to upgrade its sugarbeet processing plant, the Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative will need to grow more beets, company officials say.

The Minn-Dak co-op observed its 50th year during its annual meeting on Thursday, Dec. 8, in Fargo, North Dakota.

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Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative, celebrating 50 years in 2022, is based in Wahpeton, North Dakota.
Jeff Beach / Agweek

Kurt Wickstrom said the upgrades to the Wahpeton, North Dakota, plant have expanded slicing and processing capabilities, meaning the co-op needs more beets.

Wickstrom said over the next few years, Minn-Dak will need another 10,000 to 15,000 acres of beets. He said the grower-owners should be able to make that happen within the existing Minn-Dak footprint in the southern Red River Valley of Minnesota and North Dakota.

While other commodities such as corn and soybeans are enjoying high prices, Wickstrom said the growers understand that the other commodities will no doubt eventually cycle back to down to smaller profit margins. And with sugarbeets, there is no onus on the grower to store the beets or make marketing decisions.

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As for the 2022 growing season, which started out very wet and ended very dry, the yield of 22.4 tons per acre was subpar, but the sugar content — 19.1% — was the second highest ever.

The result is a preliminary payout estimate of $54 per ton.

Minn-Dak said it has improved efficiency with the five-year upgrade, but still plans on more capacity. After setting and achieving a goal of slicking 10,000 tons of beets per day, its now is looking at 11,000 tons per day.

Minn-Dak has improved efficiency despite having about 25 unfilled jobs at the plant.

“We are experiencing world-class results,” Wickstrom said.

But he also added that the labor shortage and the need for more beets means the need for more automation — including autonomous trucks to run from piling stations to the plant.

“So more beets, likely more beet piles, and if the automation piles are successful, requiring less personnel to pile them and haul them in," said Pat Freese, chairman of the board for Minn-Dak.

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Pat Freese, chairman of the board for the Minn-Dak Farmers Co-op, speaks at the 50th annual meeting on Dec. 8, 2022 in Fargo, North Dakota.
Jeff Beach / Agweek

“Yes, there are still investments to be made,” Freese said, “but less than required in the prior five years to restabilize the business.”

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Featured speaker Howard Dahl, a lifelong entrepreneur in farm equipment and current CEO of Amity Technology, reflected on some of the hard times in his own career and that Minn-Dak experienced before rejuvenating the beet plant.

“You’ve had some tough years,” Dahl said. “Adversity really shows what you’re made of.” 

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Howard Dahl, CEO of Amity Technology, spoke Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022, at the Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative annual meeting in Fargo, North Dakota.
Jeff Beach / Agweek

Reach Jeff Beach at jbeach@agweek.com or call 701-451-5651 (work) or 859-420-1177.
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