Cargill signs five year lease with ProGold

ProGold announced on Monday, April 10th that a new lease agreement has been reached with Cargill, Inc. to be effective as of January 1, 2018. The prior lease will remain in effect until then.

While prior leases were 10 years in length, this lease is a five-year commitment with an optional 6th year.

Base rent for the lease is as follows:

  • 2018-9 – $17,000,000
  • 2020 – $16,000,000
  • 2021-2 – $15,500,000
  • 2023 – $14,000,000 (optional 6th year)

In order to maintain the condition of the plant, ProGold agreed to fund a minimum of $750,000 for infrastructure maintenance each year of the lease.

ProGold may also be required to pay additional sums in order to make certain capital improvements in a manner similar to how the cooling tower replacement occurred in 2015.

The agreement includes an option for Cargill to purchase 50% interest in ProGold from American Crystal Sugar Company (ACSC). If Cargill exercises the option, GGC would purchase ACSC’s remaining 1%, to become a 50% owner of ProGold. GGC and Cargill have agreed to a general framework for a future partnership, with a detailed partnership agreement to be completed prior to Cargill exercising its option.

“The evolution of the corn wet milling industry was an important aspect of our discussions,” stated GGC Chairman Mark Harless. “We believe this lease is a reasonable bargain for the near term. It also holds out a possibility of a long term future for the ProGold plant.”

2016 Member Survey Results

In his Executive Vice President’s report, Scott Stofferahn presented detailed results from last year’s member survey.

Stofferahn complimented GGC members for their 80% response rate.  “We used best practices to obtain a response, but noboey would have predicted that we would have more than an 80% response rate! This is considered phenomenal for a mail in survey.”

Over the course of 20 years, GGC anticipated changes in member farming status.  At the time the cooperative was organized, every member had to be a producer.  That requirement was removed in 2009, yet the response shows that 64% of members continue to be producers.  Another 12% indicated that htey are retired, but ‘associated’ with a farming operation.  Generally these are people who, while retired, maintain an active relationship with their family members who are operating the farm.  “For purposes of analyzing data, we grouped producers with these ‘retired, but associated’ members.”  Another 24% said that they were retired or not farming with no association with a farming operation.

Electronic Delivery – roughly 2/3 of members are not interested in electronic delivery of newsletters or payments.

Investing Results:

When asked about how GGC might pay for value added processing at the ProGold plant, the majority recommended allowing individual members the opportunity to invest.  46% favored using ProGold lease income for this purpose.

While the majority of members (56%) were not interested in value added processing unrelated to the ProGold plant, those who did show interest (46%) had a preference for soybean crushing.

79% of Golden Growers members consider themselves to be ‘accredited investors’, a term defined by the SEC that measures income and assets to decide if someone is a sophisticated investor.

Delivery Results:

GGC members who meet their annual delivery requirement through direct deliveries to the plant (Method A Pool) also deliver an additional 13.5 million bushels on an annual basis.  This means that nearly 2/3 of the annual grind comes from Golden Growers members.

Among Method B pool participants, over 50% produce corn while 33% of Method B respondents said they are not crop producers.

Producer Only Responses:

Compared to twenty years ago, our members are planting more corn and soybeans.  Small grains and sunflowers are not nearly as comon within our membership as they were.

57% of Producers have a history of producing specialty crops with edible beans topping the list.

21% of Producers have raised non-GM corn or soybeans for specialty markets.

69% of producers are willing to produce crops for specialty markets.

48% said they were not interested in producing Non-GM corn.  Yet 59% would consider producing Non-GM corn if an incentive was offered and 31% indicated that producing Non-GM corn would align with a crop rotation strategy.

90% of producers indicated that they would produce for niche markets that would benefit the long-term stability of the ProGold plant. “We believe this answer shows an underlying commitment by our producers for a successful enterprise,” said Stofferahn.

NDSU Files Corn Wet Milling Market and Valuation Report

Dr. David Ripplinger, Assistant Professor at NDSU’s Department of Agribusiness & Applied Economics presented the recently filed ‘Corn Wet Mill Marketing Analysis and Valuation’ report at the Golden Growers annual meeting held on March 23rd.

Dr. Ripplinger conducted a SWAT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis for corn wet milling in our region.  His research highlighted  decreased per-capital HFCS consumption and a shift to alternative sweeteners as threats to the HFCS industry.   Increased world consumption, new products, and the renewable fuels standard were considered strengths.

‘Three factors impacting perception and consumption of HFCS stand out,’ writes Ripplinger: 1) a broad popular conception that HFCS is unhealthy and leads to obesity; 2) a large number of consumers avoid products containing genetically modified products; and 3) consumption of sweetened soft drinks has tracked the fall of HFCS consumption in the United States.

Strengths for the region include a competitive cost advantage for corn when compared to the corn belt.  In addition, Golden Growers has the advantage of being able to control the supply of corn to the plant.  Yet the Cooperative does not have the history or experience in corn mill operations, technology, or food ingredients.

In terms of strategies, the report recommends avoiding products with contradictory attributes (ex: non-GM HFCS) and to identify and pursue natural hedges against the decline of HFCS use (advanced biofuels, reduced calorie sweeteners derived from corn, etc.)

The next step is to build upon that research using Value Added Producer Grant funding obtained from USDA’s Rural Development. Kyle Althoff of Equinox will lead that project in the coming months.

The full NDSU report is available for review and download here (Final Report).

Annual Meeting Set for March 23rd

Golden Growers Annual Meeting – Thursday, March 23

The Golden Growers Annual Meeting is set for Thursday, March 23, 2017 at the Doubletree Conference Center (former Cambria), 825 Beaton Drive West Fargo, ND.  The Doubletree is located on the north side of Interstate 94 where it intersects with Veterans Boulevard. This is the same location where our meeting was held year, however, the hotel and conference center recently changed its name to Doubletree by Hilton.

The schedule is as follows:

8:00 a.m.         Registration and Continental Breakfast

9:00 a.m.         Short Courses

  • Buying & Selling GGC Units (Jayson Menke, FNC Ag Stock)
  • Corn’s Role in the Bio-Industrial Economy  (Cargill R&D)
  • Expectations for the 2017 Crop year (Pat Pithey, Cargill Corn Merchandizing)

10:00 a.m.       Business Meeting

  • Election of Directors
  • Financial Reports
  • Management Reports

11:00 a.m.       Dr. David Ripplinger, Assistant Professor NDSU Agribusiness & Applied Economics

Presenting: Corn Wet Milling Marketing Analysis and Valuation

12:00 p.m.      Lunch

1:00 p.m.        Members Only Question & Answer Session

Board Election 2017 (Vacancy in SE District)

Current GGC board member Bernie DeCock from Ghent, MN announced that he will not be seeking re-election to the Board at the March 23rd, 2017 annual meeting.  This vacancy allows an opportunity for those from the district who have considered serving to do so.

Current directors up for re-election are: Shaun Beauclair, Steven, MN (NE District); Mark Harless, Borup, MN (EC District); Chris Johnson, Whahpeton, ND (SW District); and Glenn Johnson, Mayville, ND (NW District).  SE District Director Bernie DeCock from Ghent, MN is not seeking re-electionThis leaves an open seat for the SE District.

Any member in good standing is eligible to be nominated to the Board in the district where the member is registered.  If you are interested in serving on the Board or want more information about district elections, visit our website at or contact us at 701-281-0468 or

Additional information on elections (including petitions) is available on the Election of Directors page on our website.


Golden Growers Board Approves February Distribution

On Friday, February 3, 2017, the Golden Growers Board of Directors allocated income for the 2016 tax year and approved a distribution of $.143/bushel delivered in 2016.

Traditionally, the Board has issued distributions near $0.20/bushel.  This year, however, the Board issued a distribution equal to 30% of allocated income, the amount required to be distributed according to our bylaws.

In January, the ProGold Board of Governors voted to suspend automatic distributions to its partners until such time as a final decision has been made for the use of the plant starting on January 1, 2018.  A new lease has not yet been finalized and the ProGold Board of Governors believed it would be prudent to conserve cash if it became necessary to implement alternative plans.

Because of this ProGold decision, the Golden Growers Board decided to limit the February distribution to the minimum required by our bylaws.  As this situation evolves, we will continue to keep you informed.

GGC Board Approves $0.21/Unit Distribution

On September 15th, the Golden Growers Board of Directors voted to retire the remaining $693,767 of 2015 allocated income and issue a partnership distribution of $2,559,233 for a total of $3,253,001 or $0.21/Membership Unit. This distribution will be issued to members of record on October 1, 2016. Checks were placed in the mail on October 6, 2016

Return Your Member Survey Today

On July 22nd, Golden Growers Cooperative mailed a very important CONFIDENTIAL SURVEY to our members.

The survey is designed to be simple and yet provide the kind of information that will be useful as the Board considers the future of the cooperative.  WE NEED OUR MEMBERS HELP!  By completing this five minute survey members will:

  • Update membership information;
  • Provide thoughts on investing;
  • Relay corn delivery information; and
  • Share interest in alternative and niche markets.

If a member misplaced their survey, they may download a replacement by clicking on the link below, complete it, and either scan and email the survey to or mail the survey to:

Golden Growers Cooperative, 1002 Main Avenue W, Suite 5, West Fargo, ND 58078


We intend to share general survey results with members early this fall.

Important Member Survey Coming in July!

Please watch your mail for an important member survey and make a commitment to promptly complete and return it. This msurvey is an integral part of the Board’s strategic planning process designed to protect and improve your investment in Golden Growers Cooperative.

This CONFIDENTIAL SURVEY was designed to be fairly simple, yet provide the kind of information that will be useful as we think about the future. We will be asking you to:

  • Update member information;
  • Provide your thoughts on investing;
  • Relay corn delivery information, and; and
  • Share your interest in alternative and niche markets.

For the past three years, your Board has been deeply involved in a strategic planning process focused on protecting and improving your investment in Golden Growers Cooperative and the ProGold corn milling plant.

As part of that planning process, Golden Growers engaged in a marketing research project funded with contributions from the ND Corn Utilization Council, the ND Agricultural Products Utilization Commission, and USDA’s Rural Development Agency. Research has focused on trends of the corn sweetener market, emerging products that could use corn starch or sweeteners as a feedstock, and market niches that could benefit our members and the region.

Your timely response to the survey is the most important thing you can do to guide your Cooperative.

This is the first time, Golden Growers members have been surveyed in twenty two years.

When survey responses are received, we will begin tabulating and evaluating them. We plan to share those results with you.

GGC Approves Distribution of $0.20/bushel

On June 16th, the Golden Growers Board of Directors approved a distribution of $3,098,056 to members of
record as of June 1, 2016. This distribution, to be issued in the last week of June, will consist entirely of retirement
of 2015 allocated income. Combined with the February distribution, 90% of 2015 allocated income will be retired.

The remaining equity balance is $693,847 or $0.045/bushel delivered in 2015.
With this payment, Golden Growers will have issued payments to members totaling $86,407,052. This represents
160% of members’ original equity investment in the ProGold plant.