I wonder what the locals think?
For rural farm co-ops, it's definitely a new era when East Coast hedge funds, Asian corporations and investors for billionaire George Soros come a-courting.
Across the Midwest, well-heeled outside investors are on the prowl to acquire the hard assets of U.S. agribusiness. They're motivated by a sense that the sun is rising on a sector that's historically been pretty sleepy but is being awakened by soaring grain prices and the world's growing appetite for food.
"There's a lot of new entrants that are very well capitalized," said Lynden Johnson of CHS Inc., the nation's largest farm cooperative, based in Inver Grove Heights. "If they want to invade a market and make a dent, they have the wherewithal to do it.
"There's always been competition," added Johnson, CHS' senior vice president of business solutions. "But it's escalated in the last 12 months, far beyond anything I've seen in the last 30 years."
Bill Oemichen, president of the Cooperative Network, sees outside investment in agriculture coming in another way.
"I've been to several conferences in the last six months and the advice being given out to large investors is, 'Buy Midwest farmland' - though I doubt many have ever put equipment into a field," he said.
Today, the old grain-handling firms with deep Minnesota roots like Cargill, CHS and Archer Daniels Midland are being crowded by a collection of new entrants. You can get a glimpse of this new world at the port of Duluth-Superior.
Since 2008, unfamiliar names, including some hedge funds, have been acquiring terminal grain elevators there: Whitebox Advisors, Riverland Ag, Gavilon Grain, the Ospraie Group, Ceres Global Commodities, Hansen-Mueller....MORE
Cargill is headquartered there.
Archer-Daniels Midland was founded there.
Peavey was into architecture:
First concrete grain elevator which funded
Frank H. Peavey's "Highcroft" summer estate on Lake Minnetonka
and today forms the core of:
Soros-backed Gavilon Buying Up U.S. Grain Elevators