Central Valley merging with Truman
Central Valley Cooperative, headquartered in Owatonna, will be merging with WFS (Watonwan Farm Service), a cooperative based in Truman, the two cooperatives announced last week.
Voting members of both cooperatives have given their approval to the merger plan, said Gary Mohr, CEO of Central Valley. Both memberships were overwhelmingly in favor of the unification and exceeded the state required two-thirds majority (67 percent) with 74.86 percent of the Central Valley ballots in favor and 75.86 percent of the WFS ballots in favor.
The merger will not go into effect until March 1, Mohr said. The new company will be named Central Farm Service, he said, and will maintain the offices in both Owatonna and Truman.
Mohr said that he will become the chief administrative officer of the new cooperative while WFS CEO Todd Ludwig will become CEO of the merged company.
Cooperative members will see very little change in the day-to-day operations of the cooperative, Mohr said. The locations of Central Valley and WFS did not overlap, he said, and the new cooperative will be offering the same services as the two did independently.
What will change, he said, is that the new organization will be larger and be able to operate more efficiently in areas such as purchasing.
The plan was first announced to the respective memberships of the cooperatives in a letter on Oct. 14. That letter also included a list of anticipated questions and answers.
Following harvest, informational meetings were held for members of both cooperatives and ballots, along with additional information, were mailed to voting members on Dec. 2.
“With this positive vote, our members have created a long-term, viable local cooperative that will thrive in the decades ahead,” said WFS Board Chairman Charlie Johnson. “While we projected $5 to $7 million in tangible benefits to our members in our proposal, I think the intangible benefits may be even greater.”
Intangible benefits included employee retention, geographic diversity and maintaining member control.
“Growth is a large component of success,” said Eric Schrader, chairman of the CVC board. “We believe that the unified cooperative will be a survivor and we feel fortunate to have the opportunity to bring these two strong cooperatives together.”
Mohr agreed with those assessments.