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    Cargill Bids for Farmland Pork Business

    MINNEAPOLIS - Minnesota-based agribusiness giant Cargill Inc. on Friday announced a $385 million bid to an offer that would top the $363.5 million bid by Smithfield Foods Inc.

    MINNEAPOLIS - Minnesota-based agribusiness giant Cargill Inc. on Friday announced a $385 million bid to an offer that would top the $363.5 million bid by Smithfield Foods Inc.

    The Cargill bid will lead to an auction overseen by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. The purchase price could escalate at the auction, expected to take place in early October, because there are competing bids, Cargill said.

    Farmland Industries, once the nation's largest farmer-owned cooperative, filed for bankruptcy in May 2002. The Kansas City-based company has been selling its assets and using the proceeds to pay off debt. The pork processing business is its largest remaining asset.

    Cargill said Farmland's pork processing business would become part of its meat-processing subsidiary, Excel Corp., based in Wichita, Kan.

    "Farmland Foods will be an excellent fit with us," said Bill Buckner, Cargill corporate vice president and Excel president. Excel operates pork processing facilities in Ottumwa, Iowa, and Beardstown, Ill.

    "We're pleased that Cargill has added its name to the bidding process," said Bob Terry, Farmland's president and chief executive. "Cargill is a highly respected food and agricultural company with a solid reputation in the marketplace."

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