Reflecting on a Year of Growth: United Cooperative's 2023 Success Story

Dec 18, 2023

By David Cramer, President & CEO

As we close out 2023, I want to reflect on the tremendous momentum we have experienced this year. Our employees and facilities functioned at a very high level, creating growth, timely service, and demand. I want to thank the employees for their commitment and dedication and our member/owners for your loyalty and trust. Each of our core divisions saw unit increases and captured efficiencies to provide a good return on investment. The United Cooperative board has approved many building projects this year to meet the demands of our customers. Below are some of the major construction projects, completed and in construction phases:
  • Waupun – The new feed mill construction facility will hold about 8,500 tons of feed ingredients along with 40,000 plus sq ft of warehouse storage, 3,300 sq. ft. office complex, 52,000 gallons of liquid feed storage along with 1,500 tons of bagged feed storage and a new 3-million-bushel grain terminal. 
  • South Beaver Dam – Addition of a liquid fertilizer receiving bay, 82,000 gallons of crop protection storage along with an area for future expansion. 
  • Fall River - Transload plant with rail unloading capacity and track storage. 
  • Center Valley – A 8,200 dry fertilizer facility, 2 bay liquid fertilizer plant with 4,400 tons of liquid storage, a 24,000 sq. ft. warehouse with office and shop and a 3.8-million-bushel grain storage facility. 
  • Boscobel - Load out storage and tracks to load 110-car unit trains. 
  • Deerfield - 2,000-ton dry fertilizer plant expansion along with a blender tower upgrade.
  • Ripon South - Addition of two 1.3-million-bushel grain storage bins and a 600,000-bushel bin, two 100,000-bushel wet tanks, a 7,000 bushel/hour dryer, 2 receiving pits, and a rail loadout 
  • Mayville – A 12,000 sq ft warehouse and office, two bay liquid fertilizer and chemical load out with a 250,000-gallon 32% storage tank, and a 6500-ton dry fertilizer building with a tower blender.
  • Coleman – Adding 12,000 sq. ft. warehouse, along with a two-bay liquid fertilizer and chemical loadout, with a 250,000-ton storage tank of 32% liquid fertilizer.
  • Westfield – Adding a 150-ton dry fertilizer tower blender in late summer of 2024.

Most of our trade territory was blessed with another great crop year. The growing season caused much concern as our drought lingered. The advancement in crop varieties, seed selection, and farming practices all proved valuable to outperform the environmental impacts that we encountered. Once again, we moved a lot of spring agronomy input products in a short amount of time. The investments in hard assets and rolling stock fulfilled the logistical strategies we sought to achieve which helped meet the demands of our customers. On another positive note, we were able to find the seasonal help to provide the customer service our members have become accustomed to. Thank you to all our seasonal employees including the 21 H2A workers from South Africa. The harvest season was like last year’s, with great weather and harvesting conditions. Overall, we enjoyed favorable yields and excellent fall tillage conditions. We also had a considerable amount of fall fertilizer application this year. This should take some of the pressure off our spring planting season.
We continue to evaluate our storage and unloaded capacity and have contracted to build about 9 million bushels of additional storage throughout our trade territory in the next year. With the higher moisture conditions this year, we did pile several million bushels of corn on the ground to help keep the harvest moving.

December 31st marks the end of our fiscal year and the privilege of being in business for 88 years. While the year and financial numbers will not be final until the audit in early 2024, the cooperative will have another strong year. Planning, execution, product availability, customer service, and loyal members are the foundation for United Cooperatives' success.  

Named a Top America 100 Cooperative
For over 30 years, the National Cooperative Bank (NCB) has released the annual NCB Coop 100, highlighting America's top 100 Cooperatives. These 100 cooperatives are member-owned, member-controlled businesses with a combined revenue of over $255 billion.

Many of these cooperatives that appear on the list are household names and are known worldwide. They represent farm supply, rural electrics, insurance, dairy, organic, retail, and manufacturing with recognizable cooperatives on the list, including CHS, Land O' Lakes, ACE Hardware, Foremost Farms, Ocean Spray, Blue Diamond Almonds, and Organic Valley. United Cooperative ranked 28th of the agricultural cooperatives on this list and 42nd cooperative overall.
Over the past 40 years, CropLife magazine has published their CropLife 100 companies that influence and move the market of agriculture. This year United Cooperative was recognized 22nd  out of the top 100. This is the fifteenth year in a row that United Cooperative has been recognized as one of the top 100 companies in this category.

"Cooperatives make a tremendous economic impact in the United States and around the world. Cooperatives employ millions of people, pay taxes, and give back to their communities. They are organized under bylaws and articles of incorporation and follow the seven principles of the cooperative business model. Cooperatives provide valuable products and services, further value-added products into the supply chain, and create trade in global markets. While cooperatives may offer similar goods and services as publicly traded firms, they use a distinctly different business model. Cooperatives operate for the benefit of their member-owners and communities. Having a vested interest in the cooperative fosters a natural closeness and accountability between owners/members and the cooperative," the National Cooperative Bank stated.       

It is an honor to be recognized on these prestigious lists. However, no matter our size and scale or being mentioned on any list, we are only as good as the returns we generate through profitability and how we protect shareholder value for our members. That reality is demonstrated through our strong patronage programs to our members by distributing $43.5 million in cash to our customers this year and the re-investment we make within the cooperative every year.

Our vision for the future has to parallel the agricultural changes of our farmers to create a positive customer experience where our farmers can "Rely On Us." It's evident today based on the economic environment, supply chain issues, inflation, and worldwide markets. To maintain this experience, please have a discussion with one of our trusted advisors at United Cooperative as you prepare for your 2024 farm plan and inputs. Decision-making, forecasting, planning, and execution all directly impact profitability at the farm and the cooperative.

Thank you again for your patronage in 2023, and I look forward to an exciting and prosperous year in 2024. All of us at United Cooperative wish you a blessed holiday season. Merry Christmas!

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