It was Friday night at Lakeview High School in Cottonwood, though with the smell of belgian waffles in the air, the sight of casual men in formal attire and stories of divine intervention––it sure felt like it could have been Sunday morning.
This past Friday, members of the nine grain elevator consortium known as the Farmer’s Co-op Elevator (FCE) held their annual meeting at the Lakeview High School Auditorium. A few hundred turned out for the affair that featured the election of a new FCE board, the distribution of grant scholarships to area students and a fan-favorite guest in author/speaker, Scott Gottschalk.
FCE Management and board members began by recapping a centennial year that by most accounts couldn’t have been better.
FCE General Manager Scott Dubbelde gave credit to the co-op’s membership and staff for making 2012 record breaking. The elevator consortium was named amongst the top 100 cooperatives in the country by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the first time in the co-op’s history for 2011 sales of roughy $354 million. This year FCE is bound to have another shot at the list having topped $371 million in sales for 2012.
According to Dubbelde, the success saw FCE generate local profits of over $2.8 million that allowed for over $2 million in cash dividend payouts to member shareholders––and this while also reducing the age in which its Patron Equity is retired from 70 to 69.
Dubbelde also commented on the construction of new soybean house equipment and a new bin in Montevideo as well as a new scale and pit in Hanley Falls, stating that each project has made operations more efficient.
Later on in the evening, the FCE General Manager acknowledged that which he deemed the biggest potential disappointment looking ahead. Dubbelde said that the cooperative may be forced to abandon its recently launched cooperative health insurance program so that it can be absorbed into new federal health care plans.
“Had the government taken time to look at a program like ours they’d have fixed their problems and saved some money,” he said.
Several reports from FCE management provided an overview of the increasingly volatile market as well as the fundamentals that have allowed the company to prosper while remaining a relative calm amongst the storm. “Just as the market has gotten larger, faster and more volatile, so too has the environment and Farmers Cooperative Elevator,” said FCE Grain Merchant Ben Hedtke.
A scholarship and years of service award portion followed the reports.
On an annual basis FCE employee memorial scholarships are awarded to students with ag-related, post-secondary aspirations who reside within FCE member school districts. This year, Jean Rosenau (Yellow Medicine East), Allison Peterson (RCW) and Elen Skaar (Minneota) each received $500 in scholarships.
Page 2 of 2 - Attesting to the company’s desirable work climate and strong sense of community, the number of employees recognized for at least 15, and as many as, 40 years of experience tallied over a dozen.
With the meeting adjourned, the night was capped Gottschalk. The author/speaker recounted two of his own unbelievable tales of life and death experiences during a highly entertaining and energetic talk dubbed: “Are Angeles for Real?”
The long and short of it: absolutely.