Q&A with Agfinity CEO: Newly formed co-op providing better services to producers
August 20, 2012
A familiar logo — known to local farmers and ranchers for more than 40 years — is coming down from a number of local structures and being replaced with a new one.
Where producers once saw "Agland, Inc." plastered to the side of grain elevators, petroleum storage tanks and other facilities, they'll see Agfinity — the name of a new local cooperative, created out of a merger between Eaton-based Agland Inc. and Brighton-based American Pride Co-op.
The merger of the two cooperatives went into effect last month — forming "one of the largest and strongest cooperatives in Colorado," as company officials described — and the operation is still in the midst of its re-branding process.
Mitch Anderson, formerly the general manager and CEO of Agland and serving now in those roles for Agfinity, discussed with The Tribune this past week the reasons behind the merger and why he believes it was a good move for local producers.
Anderson — who was hooked into agriculture as a kid, spending summers on his grandparents' farm — has now worked in the cooperative system for all of his professional career, and has been with Agland since 1989.
With the merger, Anderson oversees an operation that has 260 employees, providing services to 1,100 common members and more than 7,000 participating members. Agfinity creates products in various divisions, including farm fertilizers and chemicals, processed grains and feed, petroleum-based products, animal health products and propane and also has convenience stores among many other operations.
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Before the merger, Agland had 180 employees, 700 common members, 4,500 participating members.
While the Agland name goes back 40-plus years, the operation dates back to 1905, when the co-op was formed as a potato growers company.
Q: How long had the merger between Agland and American Pride been under consideration, and what sparked discussions?
Anderson: Several years, on and off. This time, the timing seemed to be just right with both companies. The leadership of the chairmen of the board of directors for each company, and the retirements of some management that were happening or going to happen in the near future, seemed to keep things on track. (Sparking discussions was) the consolidation happening in the markets as the dollars it takes to bankroll commodities we handle increases.
Q: In your opinion, how will co-op members benefit from this merger?
Anderson: There will be a larger offering of product and services, diversity of business, and the businesses that overlapped can be streamlined.
Q: The merger took effect July 1. How have things gone so far?
Anderson: Going good so far after the first month. We're just making sure that we execute taking care of the customers and members, and keep simple, basic business principals to take care of the business day by day — the rest will follow.
Q: What changes have or will come about with the merger?
Anderson: Not much — a few retirements, but we have employees stepping up to fill those rolls internally.
Q: Operations at Agfinity are very diverse. What aspects of your operations do you think people might not be aware of, or might even surprise some people?
Anderson: We have the golf and turf business, the aqua ammonia business for water treatment plants, a Bandag tire retread franchise, a crude oil refinery that CHS owns as a regional cooperative we are a part of, along with branding of Cenex Gas stations. We're also now a much larger propane company and fuel marketer of oils, lubricants and fuels, and have expanded our trade area in the livestock and companion animal pet business.
Q: For Agfinity and also for other cooperatives, what are the challenges in today's agriculture industry, and what will be the challenges in the future?
Anderson: The amount of money it takes to be in the agriculture-commodity handling business, and also regulations.
Q: What keeps you optimistic for agriculture in Weld County and for the industry as a whole?
Anderson: The hard-working people in this county, and people needing to be fed and their desires for better diets across the globe. ❖