The Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association (RRVSGA) was formed in
1926 for the purpose of representing growers who grew sugarbeets for the old American Beet Sugar Company, later to become the American Crystal Sugar Company. The American Beet Sugar Company built the first sugarbeet processing factory in East Grand Forks, Minnesota. Additional factories were later built in Moorhead and Crookston, Minnesota and in Drayton and Hillsboro, North Dakota.
Growers were concerned about the future of the sugar industry and so it's Association members decided to take the company into their own hands by purchasing American Crystal and forming a cooperative in 1973. Today the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association's members are the proud owners of the American Crystal Sugar Company.
The Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association is the voice for nearly 2,500 sugarbeet growers who are shareholder owners of the American Crystal Sugar Company. The Association provides a variety of services for their members. The Association is divided into five factory districts - Drayton, East Grand Forks, Crookston, Hillsboro, and Moorhead. An executive committee is elected from the five factories to represent growers on many issues.
The primary purpose of the Association is that it plays a lead role in legislative issues both federal and local. Association members continue to educate members of Congress on legislative and trade matters and their impact on growers. Efforts to promote and defend the sweetener industry are coordinated with the American Sugarbeet Growers Association representing sugarbeet growers in 11 states.
The Association also works with the Minnesota and North Dakota state legislatures on issues that may affect growers including issues on transportation, labor, environmental, taxes, public research, workers compensation insurance, regulatory issues, etc. The Association also invest significant grower funds in public research programs, conducts public relations programs, and provides information to growers regarding employment, transportation, and other regulations.
According to a study completed in 1998 by the Department of Agriculture Economics at North Dakota State University in Fargo, North Dakota, the Red River Valley industry contributes an estimated economic impact (direct and secondary) of $2.3 billion dollars in Minnesota and North Dakota (see Agricultural Economics Report No. 395-S, May 1998, by Dean A. Bangsund and F. Larry Leistritz, North Dakota State University, Fargo, North Dakota). The industry employed nearly 2,500 full-time equivilant workers and supported an additional nearly 30,500 full-time equivalent secondary jobs in the two-state area. In 1997 the industry generated tax collections of about $16.4 million in North Dakota and $34.6 million in Minnesota, and also paid an additional $12.6 million in property taxes.
In 1999 growers planted nearly 500,000 acres of sugarbeets and processing them in five factories. Their crop is marketed through United Sugars Corporation. United Sugars Corporation markets sugar for American Crystal Sugar Company, Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative, Southern Minnesota Sugar Company, and U.S. Sugar in Florida.
The Research & Education Board is a cooperative effort by growers of American Crystal Sugar Company, Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative, and Southern Minnesota Sugar Company. It's purpose is to promote research and education on behalf of sugarbeet producers in Minnesota and North Dakota.
Growers provide financial support through a check-off system from each of the three Cooperatives listen above. The funds are invested in public and private research projects primarily focusing on the agronomic aspects of sugar production. Researchers make funding requests to the Board for review and approval. The board is comprised of sugarbeet growers and representatives of the three cooperatives and universities in both states.
The International Sugarbeet Institute is held annually in March and is the largest exhibit of sugarbeet equipment and related products and services in the United States. The event is held in Fargo, North Dakota and features, national ag leaders, legislators, and sugar specialists.
American Crystal Sugar today is a successful grower-owned cooperative, the nation's largest producer of beet sugar. It pumps millions of dollars into the Red River Valley economy in products and wages.
Unlike the other sugar producers in the Red River Valley, American Crystal has a long history. In fact, its parent company, American Beet Sugar Company, goes back about 80 years.
In the early 1920s, American Beet Sugar decided the Red River Valley would be profitable area for expansion, and in 1926 construction on the first Valley plant at East Grand Forks, Minnesota, was completed. It was at this time that growers of the region anticipated the need for one voice and so formed the Red River Valley Beet Growers Association.
The thirties showed some changes in American Beet Sugar; in name to American Crystal Sugar Company and in ordering more expansion for the Red River Valley. During this decade and the next, the beets harvested in the valley continued to be of exceptional quality. In 1948 and 1954, factories were built at Moorhead and Crookston, Minnesota, respectively.
By the early 1960s, farmers in the Drayton, North Dakota, area also wanted a factory, and after doing much of the groundwork themselves, the first American Crystal plant in North Dakota was opened in 1965.
The next decade showed reduction in acreage for the Red River Valley, because of the generally bleak economic picture of the sugar industry. The Chaska, Minnesota, mill closed. At that time, the growers accomplished an unprecedented maneuver. They bought the company. Through the RRVSGA, they raised $66 million to buy American Crystal and covert it to a cooperative. This unique event in American business history took almost 2 years of work and fiscal dealings.
Converted in 1973, the general office of American Crystal moved to Moorhead, Minnesota, in 1974, where the industry's most complete research facility was also built in 1977.
And to come full circle, in 1974 a new plant was erected alongside the oldest in the valley at east Grand Forks. The new mill carried a price tag of $40 million, compared to the $1.2 million of the original.
The 1982 crop was a good one for American Crystal growers, with average yield of 17.5 tons per acre. The 280,000 acres harvested a total 4.78 million tons, which in turn yielded about 11 million hundredweight of sugar, about $275 million worth. Payroll for the 1300 full-time employees and 1100 campaign workers totaled $38 million.
The year 1971 was a turning point for sugarbeet growers in Southern Minnesota when they learned American Crystal Sugar was going to close the Chaska, Minnesota, factory. The time for decision was at hand; either to forego the crop, or come up with a multimillion dollar factory.
The newest sugarbeet factory in the tri-state area, and the youngest farmer cooperative were an outgrowth of that decision to go ahead. The Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative became concrete reality in 1975 when the new factory was completed.
But the four years in between involved much work and determination, and frustration on the part of local promoters. Finally in March 1973, groundbreaking ceremonies were held at Renville, Minnesota.
Growers in the new Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative (SMBSC) provided about $10 million of the $43 million which was finally needed to finish the job. Today the 304 shareholder/growers cover 11 counties and raise about 57,000 acres. In 1982, they harvested 1,153,000 tons of beets , averaging 21.6 tons per acre. This produced about 2,600,000 hundredweight of sugar.
The plant itself, built by the H. K. Ferguson Company, is designed to slice 6500 tons per day. Products include sugar, molasses and dried pulp. The mill employs about 160 full-time and 300 campaign workers, with an estimated payroll of $5 million. Total estimated revenue from the factory is about $75 million a year.
The Minn-Dak Farmer Cooperative sugarbeet factory at Wahpeton, North Dakota, was dedicated in September of 1974, but its roots go back to the 1930s when area farmers first started trying to locate a factory there.
By 1951, many of the growers who are now Minn-Dak shareholders had formed the Southern Red River Valley Sugarbeet Association, and were unceasing in their efforts to obtain factory and acreage allotment from the Department of Agriculture.
In August of 1970, 286 shareholders formed the Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative and their dream became reality in 1972 when the first sign-up for acreage was held.
during the first campaign in 1974, as a new company without a parent organization, Minn-Dak had employees from almost every sugar company in the country. Now about 50 percent of the year-round employees are local.
By 1982, the 300 stockholders had produced two crops of over 1,000,00 tons. Harvested acres for the nine years, 1974-1982 were 54,535 and the nine crop average was 808,500 tons. Beet payments to members have been based upon extractable pounds of sugar since construction of a quality testing laboratory in 1976. The main boilers and the pulp dryer have been converted to lignite coal and an improved waste water treatment plant was placed in operation in 1980. Slice capacity of 5,000 tons was exceeded in1982. The plant employs 150 full-time and 320 seasonal workers.
|Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association
1401 32nd Street S.W.
Fargo, North Dakota 58103
American Crystal Sugar Co.
Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative
Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative
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