Rocky Mountain In, Columbia River Out

Published online: May 01, 2002
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Rocky Mountain Sugar Growers Cooperative announced today the acquisition of The Western Sugar Company. At the same time Columbia River Sugar Company in Moses Lake, WA, is being permanently closed.

The effective date of the Western takeover was March 31 but final details were worked out as financing was provided by growers, the seller and CIT Business Credit.

Rick Dorn, a Montana grower and chairman of the Board, stated: “We are delighted and very proud that the growers now own Western. There have been several attempts in the past at a purchase. We have now been successful in our endeavors. We are also very pleased that we will have a new farm bill soon which will bring stability to our industry and contribute to our success in ownership. I invite all growers in our area to join with us in building a strong cooperative for our own benefit.”

As Western has been merged into a cooperative, the name has been changed to The Western Sugar Cooperative. It will carry the notation, Grower Owned.”

The cooperative owns six factories in Billings, MT; Lovell, WY; Scottsbluff and Bayard, NE, and Greeley and Fort Morgan, CO. It also owns extensive sugar storage facilities and numerous other properties. Headquarters will be in the Denver area.

In Washington state, the attempts of the 60 contract holders and company staff to keep the Moses Lake, WA, and factory open have apparently failed.

Growers held out hope late into April—past their normal planting window—that some kind of financing would be available. However, nothing developed. The factory, started in 1997, will be mothballed. Growers, many financially strapped to keep the factory and their own sugarbeet growing efforts in tact, are in dire financial straits, according to one observer.

“This will take many growers out of business. It has already taken many out,” the observer stated.

The company was attempting to plant its annual 20,000 acres for processing at the factory and for marketing through the Pacific Northwest Sugar Company.