“Our theme for this year’s annual meeting is ‘Keeping the Flame Burning’. In connection with this theme, we temporarily changed our logo and colors to reflect the concept. We had a dual purpose for today’s theme,” opened Harless. “We wanted to recognize and celebrate twenty-five years since Golden Growers member elected their initial Board of Directors. Second, we wanted to spend some time focusing on the very real issue of natural gas availability in the Wahpeton area.
“Twenty-five years ago, was an exciting time for the cooperative,” stated Harless. “The ProGold plant was THE major story and attracting it was a top priority for Governors, Legislators, and Mayors. Members anted up $54 million in equity, and a ground breaking was planned. A flame had been lit. Farmers were looking to climb the ladder of value added agriculture and activities surrounding Golden Growers and ProGold was an inspiration for others who had the same dream.” Harless noted that the flame ‘dimmed’ but that the leadership of ProGold and that original board identified a path forward that ultimately allowed the cooperative to return over 200% of the original investment to our members. “We owe a great deal of thanks to those who served on that original board.”
“We seek to keep the flame burning for many years to come,” said Harless. He highlighted infrastructure projects, replacement of the Distributive Control System, and repairs to the finish dryer as important as key investments intended position the ProGold plant well into the future. He then went on to discuss the importance of securing reliable and reasonably priced natural gas to keep the flame burning in a ‘literal’ sense. “The ProGold plant simply can‘t be utilized to its full potential. And unless this community shortage is resolved, there can be no discussion of new processing or expansion for the future.”
Harless discussed potential natural gas solutions and the problems associated with each option. The most viable options include: a) a pipeline from Mapleton to Wahpeton supplying Canadian gas originating from the Viking pipeline at a cost of over a million dollars per mile – the Viking pipeline is also Wahpeton’s existing supply for natural gas; or b) a less expensive pipeline connecting with the nearby Alliance pipeline with more expensive, unprocessed gas from ND oilfields. “Anyone tapping into the Alliance line is required to pay a ‘wet gas’ charge based on the value for those gasses once separated in the Chicago market.” This solution will require an adjustment to this wet gas charge.
After noting the flaring of gas in western ND, Harless mentioned that many communities would love to have access to this wasted natural gas for community development. “We are hopeful that a solution can be found that encourages greater ‘in-state’ (ND) usage for unserved and underserved communities.” Harless thanked the Wahpeton Community for hiring a consultant and for the efforts of local legislators, the Governor, and other state leaders for their efforts.