CHICAGO — Earnings after income taxes of Ardent Mills LLC totaled $169.6 million in the year ended May 30, up 17%, from $144.5 million in 2020. Excluding a gain of $4.1 million a year earlier, Ardent Mills earnings in fiscal 2021 were up 21%. Sales were $3.4 billion, up 0.4% from the year before.

Results for Ardent Mills were included in the Form 10-K filed July 23 with the Securities and Exchange Commission by Conagra Brands, Inc.

In unusually brief commentary, Conagra said the strong results for fiscal 2021 “reflected favorable market conditions.”

Total dividends paid to Conagra in fiscal 2021 from its equity method investments were $56.5 million. Ardent Mills accounted for 89.7% of income earned from the company’s equity method investments in fiscal 2021.  Dividends paid to Conagra in fiscal 2020 from equity method investments were $51.4 million.

During fiscal 2021 Conagra took a non-cash income tax benefit of $115.6 million associated with a restructuring of the company’s ownership interest in the Ardent Mills joint venture. Conagra said the restructuring “primarily relates to a release of a valuation allowance due to the generation of capital gains.” Conagra said it used “a portion of our capital loss carryforward prior to its expiration.”

Based on the 10-K and reports issued by Conagra earlier in the year, the company’s share of equity method investment earnings in the fourth quarter ended May 30 were $33.3 million, up 45% from $22.9 million in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2020. For the full year, Conagra’s share of earnings from its equity method investment earnings was $84.4 million and $73.2 million for fiscal 2021 and 2020, respectively.

The carrying value of Conagra’s equity method investments at the end of the 2021 fiscal year was $841.8 million, up 5.4% from $798.7 million a year earlier. The carrying value is based on Conagra’s 44% ownership of Ardent Mills and 50% stake in a second, smaller joint venture.

Other shareholders of Ardent Mills include Cargill, 44%, and CHS, Inc., 12%. Established in 2014, Ardent Mills is the largest flour milling company in the United States.