Two century-old agriculture cooperatives based in the Dakotas will not merge this summer after a slim majority of members in one organization voted Thursday against unification.
The South Dakota Wheat Growers and North Central Farmers Elevator had been planning for months to join and become CentraGro Cooperatives, according to the American News in Aberdeen.
Sixty-one percent of Wheat Growers members voted to merge but only 49 percent of North Central members voted yes, with the nay side garnering 42 more votes. The proposed merger required simple majorities from both cooperatives.
"I'm stunned," said Harry Krause, a Java resident and North Central member who voted yes on the proposal. "I can't figure this at all. Everything was put out there and explained so nice. I didn't expect this."
The Aberdeen-based Wheat Growers has more than 5,400 members while Ipswich-based North Central claims about 2,500.
Executives with both cooperatives in the Dakotas had said merging them would have saved about $44 million over the next four years.
Wheat Growers CEO Dale Locken planned to retire if the measure passed, but said Thursday he would now remain in his position.
"The members made their decision," Locken said. "I'm proud that Wheat Growers members voted for the unification. The efficiencies that we would have had would have benefited growers for decades to come."
Both cooperatives will now move ahead as autonomous organizations.