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Published July 21, 2011, 07:30 PM

American Crystal Threatens to Lock Out Employees to Avert Strike

Sugar beet farmers are hoping a possible lockout at American Crystal Sugar doesn't delay this year's harvest.

Sugar beet farmers are hoping a possible lockout at American Crystal Sugar doesn't delay this year's harvest.

Producers only have a certain window to process the sugar beets and this year, they'll face several challenges.

Although concerns are minimal, one local beet farmer says they only have a certain window for producing and a lockout could make the harvest difficult.

A labor dispute at American Crystal Sugar could have beets spoiling before they can be sliced.

"The biggest fear as a grower and as a company is that the employees decide to walk out at an inopportune time when beets are on the ground and there's a lot of work to do," farmer John Field said.

Field says he's confident management will come up with some agreement. If not, temporary workers may be brought in.

"Now, whether or not that's as efficient as what we currently have, I would doubt, but certainly management has a plan in place for that if they were to come to that which I'm sure is not their first choice," Field said.

American Crystal vice president Brian Ingulsrud says the company has committments it plans on keeping.

"Not only are we committed to getting sugar to our customers, we're also committed to processing our shareholder's crops," Ingulsrud said.

Both Ingulsrud and Field say it's important to come to an agreement so that promises aren't made that can't be kept.

"At this point, no one has been locked out and our goal is that no one ever will be locked out because our first priority is to get an agreement and I think that is entirely possible," Ingulsrud said.

"The valley needs American Crystal Sugar to be a healthy company," Field said.

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