Cargill, CHS, ConAgra deal draws Justice Dept.'s attention

A proposed flour milling joint venture of Cargill, CHS and ConAgra is drawing attention from the federal government.

The deal would combine the companies' flour milling businesses in the United States into an operation called Ardent Mills, and would also control about one-third of the nation's milling capacity. That's drawn the attention of the United States Department of Justice, which is concerned the venture might stifle competition.

Reuters reports about a dozen states also want to join the department in a review of the planned venture of the three agribusiness powerhouses.

CHS and Cargill, which are both based in the Twin Cities area, have already had a milling joint venture for 11 years, CHS spokeswoman Lani Jordan said.

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"As we looked at the possibility of combining that to create Ardent Mills, we really believed there was an opportunity for CHS to gain some additional value for the farmers and coops who own it," Jordan said.

Cargill spokeswoman Lori Fligge said her company is cooperating with the Justice Department but hasn't heard from state officials. She expects the deal will withstand legal scrutiny.

"We firmly believe in the merits of the Ardent Mills transaction. We believe it will benefit suppliers, customers and consumers," Fligge said. "Flour milling is a highly competitive business throughout North America. And Ardent Mills is going to have substantial competition when the transaction is completed."

The Justice Department and Minnesota Attorney General's Office could not be reached for comment.