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High court hears Glacial Plains, CVEC dispute

Tribune file photo The long and bitter legal dispute between the Glacial Lakes Cooperative and Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company, both of Benson, reached the state Supreme Court last week. A ruling is pending.

BENSON — The long and bitter legal dispute between the Glacial Plains Cooperative and Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company has reached the state's high court.

The Minnesota Supreme Court heard arguments in the case Jan. 3. The justices will be deciding whether to affirm or remand rulings by Swift County District Court and the Minnesota Court of Appeals that have favored Glacial Plains Cooperative.

The two cooperatives located in Benson have been in litigation since 2009.

In June 2014, the Court of Appeals upheld a District Court decision that Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company had breached a 1994 contract that made Glacial Plains its exclusive grain handler. Glacial Plains had invested in the ethanol plant and helped it start up.

At issue for the Supreme Court is whether Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company can terminate a contract of indefinite duration by giving reasonable notice.

If not, the Supreme Court must also decide if the appropriate remedy is to require Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company to continue using Glacial Plains as its exclusive handler. The District Court had ordered this remedy because it could not accurately determine the value of Glacial Plains Cooperative's expectancy under the contract, according to the court record.

The dispute between the two parties has been noted for its acrimony, and for the fact that it involves two cooperatives with shared membership. "Two scorpions in a jar'' is the phrase the Court of Appeals repeated in its ruling. It was calculated that 40 percent of the cooperative members own shares in both operations.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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