Brad Oelmann In A Dairy Parlor

Brad Oelmann: The magnitude of co-op membership

Serving our farmer- and retail-owners is Land O'Lakes' privilege

Once upon a time, American Express made the slogan, “membership has its privileges,” famous. That’s a great slogan that should ring true for any member-owned organization but for us at Land O’Lakes, and for me in particular, it’s just as important to consider this from the opposite point of view. Serving our members should be, and is, our privilege. As our CEO Chris Policinski has said many times, “our success is their success.”

Update: Beth Ford named Land O'Lakes President and CEO (July 26, 2018)

We try to serve our members in a big, bold way, always remembering the key factors that contribute or take away from their opportunities to succeed. Our members make many decisions, large and small, over the course of a year that make a difference in how big their year turns out. Those are exactly the moments in time we want to be there to help.

By working together, we better understand each other’s needs and can build on our long-term, mutually beneficial relationship that delivers value to each individual member-owner and to Land O’Lakes, as a whole.

A good example is return on investment, specifically return on member equity. Strong return on member equity allows Land O’Lakes to reinvest in each of our businesses, fueling our farm-to-fork competitive advantage and strengthening performance and cash to members each year. And because the equity is reinvested back into the company, it reduces our need to finance investment by acquiring debt thereby strengthening our overall balance sheet.

Land O’Lakes has been focused on investments that fuel size and scale to ensure we’re able to compete as locally owned, operated and governed agricultural producers and retailers. By coming together, more is possible. Whether it’s through merger and acquisition activities, supplier negotiations or investing in tools and technology, building size and scale is all about leaning into the belief that we can do more together than we could manage on our own.

But, this cooperative isn’t just about size and scale. Land O’Lakes isn’t like other cooperatives. Our cooperative is growing and leveraging a unique farm-to-fork viewpoint. If engaged to its full potential, this continuum can provide unique value to our members and unquestionably sets Land O’Lakes apart from others.

This begins with our full suite of businesses. Land O’Lakes is a diversified food and ag business offering solutions in crop inputs and insights (WinField United), animal nutrition (Purina), dairy production and value-added dairy foods (LAND O’ LAKES) and sustainable farming (Land O'Lakes SUSTAIN).

From there, we advocate for our industry and enable our members to engage with government officials to advance causes important to agriculture and to our membership. We also leverage our buying power. Through our BuyPoint purchasing program, members are able to save on agronomy products, human resources, IT and maintenance services.

Looking at the evolution of our industry, we also want to help our members prepare for the future, so we offer leader development and help in co-op recruitment and hiring. We also want to help our members run a better business with on-farm services, risk management, co-op talent and sales development, and strategic asset management.

You may have seen the recent news coverage of our various member healthcare offerings. This is an example of listening to your feedback and recognizing emerging trends, then working to provide timely solutions to meet your specific needs. Whether it’s this health care example, animal care, sustainability or whatever comes next, we help our members be successful in an evolving environment.

Finally, like our members, we know the importance of supporting the communities where we live and work, here and around the world. We help our members link to the Land O’Lakes International Development non-profit, an organization that helps support global food security in developing nations. We also help our members make a greater impact in their individual communities through the Land O’Lakes Foundation. Our member match programs match, dollar-for-dollar, member contributions in the areas of hunger, education and community needs.

Our members allow us the privilege of serving them. And we work to earn that privilege every day, from what we offer to how we deliver it. As I said earlier, our success will always be their success, and we have every intention of driving continued success.