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Corn prices, management cause concern

By Staff | Aug 2, 2008

Some 60 vehicles filled the Winnebago Municipal Center parking lot and lined Highway 169 in front of the building on Saturday, July 26.

Inside, Corn Plus shareholders gathered to discuss current operations at the ethanol plant.

The meeting was on the heels of four just held by the facility’s board of directors in Blue Earth, Wells, Mankato and St. James.

“The board sanctioned and put on the four meetings, but not the one in Winnebago,” says boardmember Jim Tibodeau. “I have no other comment.”

After being behind close doors for nearly two hours, Fairmont attorney Jim Wilson spoke on behalf of those in attendance.

“They want to protect their financial investment and want to see that Corn Plus does the best in their interest,” Wilson says.

Shareholders having to buy corn on the open market have some “very concerned,” he says.

“The board is creating serious financial issues for investors,” he adds.

On the advice of those conducting the meeting, shareholders were told not to make any comments to the media.

However, some were willing to say what was discussed on condition they not be identified.

“The general feeling is that the plant’s management is incompetent and we’re not happy with them,” says a Corn Plus investor.

Also attending the meeting, according to a shareholder, was a representative from All Fuels & Energy of Johnston, Iowa. He says the company has expressed an interest in buying Corn Plus.

“The plant isn’t being operated right. Something has to happen, either change management or sell it,” says a shareholder.

Wilson says he represents a number of people who have shares and was asked to attend the meeting to discuss options they might have.

Copies of a state statute outlining the rights and responsibilities under “Agricultural Marketing Contracts” were made available.

Wilson says shareholders who are not producing corn end up making the difference between an average contracted price and that paid on the open market.

“They (shareholders) want the board to find a solution so they don’t have to continue subsidizing the cost for corn,” he says.

Wilson would not say whether any options or solutions would be forwarded to Corn Plus management.

He also would not discuss if any timetables were set for the board to take action.