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UPDATE: Company confirms Talley out as top executive at American Crystal Sugar

by Mike McFeely

UPDATED AT 4 P.M.

Joe Talley is out as chief operating officer at American Crystal Sugar, according to a press release sent out by the company. Talley was seen as the No. 2 executive at the giant sugar co-op behind president and chief executive officer David Berg. 

Talley resigned, the press release said. The reason behind the resignation wasn't given.

"Joe Talley, Chief Operating Officer of American Crystal Sugar Company, has resigned his position effective January 17, 2014," the press release said. "Talley has served American Crystal extremely well for the nearly 20 years that he has worked for the Company. American Crystal wishes him well in his future pursuits. This will be our only comment on this personnel matter."

 Joseph Talley
Talley was the company's chief negotiator during a contentious 20-month lockout of members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers union that ended in May 2013. The controversial lockout was seen as union-busting by labor supporters, while ACS said it was trying to strengthen the company's financial position in the future.

More recently, Crystal Sugar was in the news because its payment to growers dropped to $38 per ton for the 2013 crop, compared to $68 per ton in 2012.

"The massive reduction is mainly due to lower sugar prices, but also reflects much lower sugar content in this year’s crop," Berg wrote on his company blog at the time.

The drop in payments mean most sugar growers lost money raising beets in 2013. And the prospects for 2014 don't look any better. Talley was a favorite target of union members and supporters because he was seen as the executive giving advice and direction to Berg prior to and during the lockout.

He and other executives were viewed as typical of greedy corporate America, because while union workers were being locked out Talley, Berg and others continued to rake in huge annual salaries. 

In 2012, filings with the Security and Exchange Commission list Talley's total compensation package at $641,643, with a base salary of $438,415.

Those earnings were down significantly from recent years for Talley, according to the BCTGM union web site. Talley had a total compensation package of $963,000 in 2011, $908,586 in 2010, $780,039 in 2009, $637,989 in 2008 and $605,520 in 2007.

Talley had been with Crystal Sugar for a number of years. He is a graduate of Moorhead High School and the University of North Dakota.

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