Sweetening Life in the Red River Valley Since 1974
was officially formed in August 1972 and produced the first crop in
1974, Sweetening Life in the Valley since 1974!
Minn-Dak embracing second year of H-2B employees
• By Frank Stanko • Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative CEO Kurt Wickstrom, rear center, with 16 new H-2B employees. Hailing from El Salvador, the new employees join 11 returning H-2B employees. Wickstrom's welcome message stressed communication, compassion and care.
“Our business will only be as successful as the employees that we have working with us and telling us how we can continually be better,” Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative CEO Kurt Wickstrom said.
Wickstrom shared this fact with 16 H-2B employees. All hailing from El Salvador, the 16 newcomers joined their friends and relatives, 11 H-2B employees who previously worked at Minn-Dak from 2022-2023. The 11 were all eager to return, Wickstrom said proudly.
“We’re very excited for you to be here,” Wickstrom said to the new employees. “You are really going to add a lot of value to our business and we hope that we as a company can provide a lot of value to you and your families. We will do so by providing a safe and fun place for you to work at Minn-Dak.”
The nearly 30 H-2B employees from El Salvador will work at Minn-Dak through the completion of slicing this year’s beets, or until late May 2024. The 11 returning employees began work just a few days prior to the 16 newcomers, who were expected to complete several days of training and orientation.
“We want to make sure that they’re comfortable and can do their jobs safely, whether it’s in sugar loading, sugar packaging or more,” Wickstrom said.
H-2B employees are made possible because of a U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) program. The H-2B nonimmigrant program permits employers to temporarily hire nonimmigrants to perform nonagricultural labor or services in the United States, according to the DOL.
Under current U.S. policy, the employment must be of a temporary nature for a limited period of time, which may include one-time occurrences, seasonal needs, peak load needs or intermittent needs. As Wickstrom explained, manufacturers apply for H-2B visas when they cannot fill available positions with U.S. labor. When that happens, the government approves visas for employers to hire from outside of America.
“Because of the heavy manufacturing industry in Wahpeton and Breckenridge, we have a labor shortage,” Wickstrom said. “These folks from El Salvador want to work. We’re really happy to have the H-2B program, where we can hopefully consistently have 30-40 employees come to work during the campaign every year.”
Speaking to the new employees, Wickstrom mentioned the 450 farmers and their families who own Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative. He also mentioned the cooperative’s half-century history, a period of time that has established it as “one of the premier sugar-producing facilities in the United States.” The message stressed compassion, communication and care.
“As with any job, there are likely going to be some days where work is more challenging that on other days. But if you have a good team to work with, even a bad shift can be fun. The most important part of our work is to do it safely. It is better to slow down, take your time and do it safely rather than run and do unsafe procedures,” Wickstrom said.
Last year’s H-2B employees were impressive, both as individuals and as a group. There is hope for similar success from both the returning employees and the newcomers. That success can be personal — and lucrative.
“Not only are they adding a lot of value to the cooperative, because of the wager differential between here and El Salvador, most of these people are making, per day, eight times what they would back in El Salvador,” Wickstrom said.
One of this year’s returning employees told Wickstrom that they were able to save enough money for purchasing a motorbike and launching a courier business once back in El Salvador.
This year's nearly 30 H-2B employees. Minn-Dak is excited to have them all continue as part of the cooperative's family and keep seeing the joys of the Twin Towns Area.
“They’ve literally said that this has changed the course of their lives,” Wickstrom said. “This program adds so much value to our co-op and our shareholders and we know it adds value for our H-2B employees and their families in El Salvador. It’s a true win-win situation.”
Last year’s H-2B employees embraced living in the Twin Towns Area, Wickstrom said. They were treated by coworkers — who did so on their own initiative — to new experiences like golf, ice fishing and visiting the Mall of America.
“Our local team just embraced those 11 so much,” Wickstrom said. “They made them feel a part of the Minn-Dak family and Twin Towns community. Because of this, all 11 came back, and then they brought nearly 20 friends and relatives to fill the visas that we had open. It’s just a tremendous success story.”
Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative Videos
Many thanks to Absolute Studios, Fargo ND!
A Part of Heaven in the Red River Valley - Featuring Blind Joe
MDFC 50th Anniversary Annual Meeting Video
MDFC Plant Tour
From Beet to Sweet
Many Thanks to AgWeek TV along with Shawna Olson and Trevor Peterson!
To maximize Patron returns by sustainably
producing quality sugar and co-products for our customers, in
partnership with Patrons, employees and the community.
to maximizing Patron returns by providing quality products globally,
focusing on innovation, sustainability, community and employee
• Diversity - We treat each
other with dignity, respect and empathy, in consideration of our
teammate’s diverse abilities, perspectives, and individual talents.
• Integrity - We will conduct ourselves in an honest, ethical and trustworthy manner at all times.
Accountability - We expect personal responsibility and ownership in the
safe performance of duties, professional growth and development, and a
commitment towards the accomplishment of the Cooperative’s goals.
Teamwork - We encourage our employees to be creative and innovative,
working cooperatively and collaboratively as a team to achieve the
Cooperative’s goals in the workplace and communities that we serve.
Flexibility - We must be an organization willing to learn and adapt to
evolving circumstances, creating positive change, and future success for
our shareholders, employee, and customers.