Cenex Harvest States Cooperatives, a producer-owned agricultural foods company, reports net earnings of $87.4 million for its fiscal year ending August 31, 2000, compared with $86.0 million for fiscal 1999.

The cooperative will return 50 percent -- $43.7 million -- of its net earnings to its member-owners during fiscal 2001 in the form of equity redemptions and cash patronage payments.

The increased net income primarily was attributed to strong earnings in the co-op's agronomy and oilseed processing businesses, including its 50 percent ownership in Ventura Foods, LLC.

Consolidated net sales for the 12-month period were $8.4 billion, up 33 percent from the $6.3 billion reported for fiscal 1999.

Grain volume for fiscal 2000 was 1.2 billion bushels, up 6 percent from 1999 levels, reflecting increased Asian demand driven by lower U.S. grain prices. Fiscal 2000 earnings in wheat milling improved 44 percent from the previous year, but remained depressed due to tight margins and over capacity in that industry.

Volume sales for some energy products decreased due to the depressed agricultural economic and high crude oil prices. Gallon sales of refined fuels fell 2 percent, while propane volume declined 11 percent.

The cooperative will hold its annual meeting Nov. 30-Dec. 1, 2000, at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

Cenex Harvest States (http://www.cenexharveststates.com) is a producer-to-consumer cooperative system owned by producers and their local co-ops from the Great Lakes to the Pacific Northwest and from the Canadian border to Texas. This fully integrated agricultural foods cooperative operates petroleum refineries/pipelines and provides a wide variety of products and services ranging from grain marketing to food processing. Through a broad range of working partnerships, Cenex Harvest States also markets and distributes energy products, agronomic inputs and feed to rural America, as well as grain and processed food products to customers around the world.