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Farmers Worry Merger Will Stifle Elevators' Competition For Grain

19:53PM Mar 06, 2015

Some South Dakota farmers say they're concerned about that a proposed merger between two major agriculture cooperatives might stifle competition and depress crop prices in the state.

The South Dakota Wheat Growers and North Central Farmers Elevator said this week that they plan to merge under a new coop they're creating. Their members will likely vote on whether to approve the merger in June, and it approved, the merger could happen by August.

DuWayne Bosse, of Britton, said farmers are worried about what the merger could mean for their bottom line, the American News reported.

"I think everyone is concerned," Bosse said. "This doesn't leave a lot of competition out there. The pressure from other companies helps farmers get a good price for their crops."

Ross Ulmer, of Frederick, said he was at an Aberdeen sale barn on Tuesday and talked to at least a half dozen farmers who were very concerned about the announcement. He said that two bankers he talked to at the sale barn expressed concerns that one company could have too much control of grain markets.

Farmers in each cooperative will have a chance to vote on the merger and some expressed the need for more information.

"Maybe if there are informational meetings, it may change minds so there may be the votes to get the merger passed," Ulmer said. "Some are mad, some thought there may be things they don't know, and they'd like more details about how it will affect them."

But not all are worried about the effects of the merger.

"It's no secret that agriculture is the top industry in the state — it's not even close," said Mike Bockorny, CEO of Aberdeen Development Corp. "Agriculture is very strong here in northeast South Dakota, and I think this announcement just makes this area even more of a hub of agricultural activity."