Crystal Sugar not giving up fight
New trade deals are greatest threat, says CEO James Horvath at co-op's annual meeting in Fargo. American Crystal Sugar Co.
New trade deals are greatest threat, says CEO James Horvath at co-op's annual meeting in Fargo.
American Crystal Sugar Co. said it lost a battle but not the sugar trade war.
Cooperative officials say they'll continue to fight international trade agreements they say could flood the United States with foreign sugar and cripple the domestic sugar industry.
"New trade deals are our greatest threat in the near term," said James Horvath, president and chief executive officer.
The Moorhead-based cooperative held its annual meeting Thursday in Fargo.
Congress this year narrowly passed the Central American Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA, over the strong objections of the U.S. sugar industry.
The Bush administration is negotiating a number of similar agreements.
Despite the setback, Crystal Sugar isn't giving up the fight for fair sugar policy, Horvath said.
Valley sugar beet producers have overcome challenges in the past and will do so again, said Terry Stadstad, Crystal Sugar chairman and a third-generation sugar beet farmer from Grand Forks, N.D.
Kenny Dahl, a semi-retired Dilworth sugar beet farmer who attended Thursday's meeting, said the push for more trade agreements is misguided.
"I think it's ridiculous. They don't understand what we do," he said.
Dahl said he and other area growers provide a stable supply of efficiently produced sugar.
Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said the sugar industry's efforts against CAFTA weren't wasted.
"I don't think anyone wants to pick a fight with sugar anytime soon," said Peterson, the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture committee.
Peterson also said he's optimistic Congress this winter will approve disaster aid for farmers in the northern Red River Valley whose crops were hammered by heavy rains in the spring of 2005.
American Crystal Sugar is the nation's largest sugar beet producer. It has 2,900 shareholders who raise sugar beets in the Red River Valley.
The company reported net revenue of $965 million this year, down from the record $1 billion in 2004, when a bumper 2003 crop boosted profits.
This year's numbers reflect an about-average 2004 crop, the company said.
Wahpeton, N.D.-based Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative, which has about 475 shareholders who raise sugar beets, holds its annual meeting Tuesday at the Fargo Holiday Inn.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Jonathan Knutson at (701) 241-5530