- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 3, 2015

ABERDEEN, S.D. (AP) - Executives with two large century-old agricultural cooperatives in the Dakotas say merging them would save about $44 million over the next four years.

North Central Farmers Elevator and South Dakota Wheat Growers are proposing to become CentraGro Cooperative on Aug. 1. Members of both co-ops will vote this summer on whether to approve the merger.

Executives held an informational meeting in Aberdeen on Tuesday, the American News reported (http://bit.ly/1G5jXeP ).

CentraGro would have $934 million in assets and could save millions through lower fertilizer, seed and chemical wholesale prices and trimmed logistical costs, according to North Central General Manager Mike Nickolas.

“This is about securing the future for both co-ops for generations to come,” he said.

The Aberdeen-based Wheat Growers has more than 5,400 members in the eastern Dakotas. Ipswich-based North Central serves 2,500 members in north central South Dakota and south central North Dakota. Both date back about 100 years. Some farmers worry about what a merger could mean for competition in the region.

Groton farmer Doug Sombke praised the boards of both co-ops for looking into the potential benefits of a merger but wondered if it would be better for the co-ops to stay separate and team up only for certain projects or business practices.

Dwight Buntrock, of Columbia, said he likely will vote yes on the merger.

“I’m impressed with the amount of information that they’ve put together and put out there,” he said.

Milt Ehresmann, of Aberdeen, isn’t sure how he’ll vote.

“I still have some hang-ups,” he said. “I might just put ‘don’t know’ on my ballot.”

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Information from: Aberdeen American News, http://www.aberdeennews.com

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