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Astrup is new Crystal president, Berg stays CEO till August

MOORHEAD, Minn. -- American Crystal Sugar Co. has named its vice president Tom Astrup, as the cooperative's new president. Astrup, 47, will succeed David Berg, who remains CEO through his planned Aug. 31 retirement, when Astrup also will assume t...

MOORHEAD, Minn. -- American Crystal Sugar Co. has named its vice president Tom Astrup, as the cooperative's new president.

Astrup, 47, will succeed David Berg, who remains CEO through his planned Aug. 31 retirement, when Astrup also will assume the CEO title. Astrup had been vice president of operations since January 2014. Before that, he was vice president of finance from 2007 to 2014, vice president of agriculture from 2004 to 2007, and vice president of administration from 2000 to 2004.

Since 2007, Astrup also served as chief operating officer of American Crystal's Sidney Sugars, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary based in Sidney, Mont. After an early career in public accounting, Astrup joined the company in 1994 and held various finance posts before being named vice president of administration. He is a north Fargo native and received an accounting degree from the University of North Dakota in 1991.

In his current post, Astrup serves on the board of ProGold LLC, the entity that owns the corn fructose plant in Wahpeton, N.D., which is leased to Cargill Inc. He is a trustee of the U.S. Beet Sugar Association and serves on the board of the Chamber of Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo, and is on the board of the Greater North Dakota Chamber.

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22 years at Crystal

American Crystal Board Chairman Robert Green, St. Thomas, N.D., says Astrup has served American Crystal for 22 years and has "shown that he understands what is required to help our cooperative maintain its leadership position within the United States sugar industry."

Astrup says he is pleased to have the opportunity to lead a company that has 126 years of success and progress behind it, and more than 40 years as a grower-owned cooperative.

"This is obviously a very large company, but it's a family-owned business -- owned by the farmers who have an incredible amount at stake in it, and care about it deeply, and about its long-term success," Astrup says. "We're the largest beet sugar companies in the U.S., and one of the largest sugar producers in the U.S. and that's a testament to the strength of our business."

GMO perception

Astrup says the most promising thing about the business is its leadership and competitiveness. One of the challenges he'll deal with "front and center" is the concerns about biotechnology in agriculture. "We need to help ensure that facts and science about biotechnology -- the benefits of growing more, bigger crops on land with less inputs -- outweigh the rhetoric that some cast against biotechnology in agriculture," Astrup says.

In the past year, some candy manufacturers have chosen to source sugar that is not made from GMO sugar, which eliminates sugar beet sugar because the industry largely has converted to raising Roundup ready beets, which have been genetically modified to tolerate Roundup herbicide (glyphosate). Refined sugar doesn't contain DNA, which would make it identifiable as different from cane sugar, which has not been genetically modified.

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