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About the Conference

A challenging and changing business environment requires innovative thinking and often, tough decisions. Cooperative managers and board members are often called upon to redefine their cooperative's vision and to create new, competitive strategies. Implementing these strategies, making the vision a reality, can be more difficult and time consuming than anticipated. The theme for the Sixth Annual Farmer Cooperatives Conference is Executing Vision and Strategy with Success.

Over the course of two days, the conference highlighted the challenges as well as the factors for successful implementation of business strategies. Two sessions tackled some of the most difficult situations cooperatives face: changing business structures and closing local plants and branches. How to successfully execute growth-oriented strategies-dealing with a diverse membership and creating strong brand recognition-is another focal point of the conference.

Case studies and panel discussions came from cooperative leaders representing, Pro-Fac/Birds Eye, Foremost Farms, ADM, West Central Cooperative, National Grape Cooperative, and Dairy Farmers of America, businesses that have first hand experience with these situations. Cooperative scholars and attorneys provided further insight.

Advice on financing using non-traditional equity arrangements was explored in a panel that included board members from CHS and Wyoming Sugar and a highly regarded investment banker from D.A. Davidson. The importance, and difficulties, of implementing strategies quickly was dealt with in one of the opening sessions, with perspectives from Land O'Lakes and CoBank.

On the second day, the focus turned to highlighting keys for success. Additional case studies were presented and analyzed by a panel including a cooperative scholar from Kansas State University and an attorney from Lindquist and Vennum PLLP. A summary presentation and retrospective on the conference followed.

The UW Center for Cooperatives established the Annual Farmer Cooperatives Conference in 1998 with the objective of providing co-op directors, managers, government, and academia with information on major trends and issues impacting agricultural cooperatives. We look for presenters and topics that stimulate critical thinking and the exchange of ideas. The conference includes ample opportunities for interaction and discussion. The program theme and content is the product of a committed and diverse planning committee . Their combined efforts and experiences continue to yield a high quality program. The generous contribution of our financial sponsors must also be recognized. Without this type of support, we simply could not afford to offer a program of this caliber.

Past Farmer Cooperatives Conferences
The 5th Annual Farmer Cooperatives Conference was held at the Sheraton Westport in St. Louis, Missouri. "Restructuring for Troubled Times" was the theme for the conference. Relevant and timely information on alternative business structures was provided to a diverse audience of cooperative managers, employees and board members, university researchers and educators, and other cooperative leaders. A summary of last year's conference is available as are summaries and information from other conferences.



Thursday, October 30
7:00 am Registration and Continental Breakfast
8:00 am Welcome Remarks

Steve A. Halbrook, Vice-President, Farm Foundation (PDF of Presentation)

Lessons Learned from the 2002 Farmer Cooperatives Conference

Kim Zeuli, Assistant Professor, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, University of Wisconsin—Madison

8:45 am The Speed of Execution

Chris Peterson, Professor, Department of Agricultural
Economics, Michigan State University (Moderator)

Steven Montgomery, Executive Vice President, CoBank (PDF of Presentation)

Jack Gherty, President and CEO, Land O’Lakes

10:00 am Break
10:20 am Financing Strategies: Non-Traditional Equity Arrangements

Bob Bass, First Vice-Chairman, CHS Board of Directors (Moderator)

Mark Semmens, Managing Director, Investment Banking, D.A. Davidson (PDF of Presentation)

Richard McKamey, Board Chair, Wyoming Sugar LLC

11:30 am Executing Difficult Strategies: Changing Business Structures
The Pro-Fac/Birds Eye Story

David Barton, Director, Arthur Capper Cooperative Center, Kansas State University (Moderator)

Steve Wright, CEO and General Manager, Pro-Fac and Executive Vice-President, Birds Eye Foods

David Swanson, Attorney and Partner, Dorsey and Whitney (Response)

12:30 pm Lunch
1:30 pm Executing Difficult Strategies: Closing Local Plants and Branches

Roger Ginder, Professor, Department of Economics, Iowa State University (Moderator)

Jeff Stroburg, CEO, West Central Cooperative, Iowa

Dave Fuhrmann, President, Foremost Farms

Don Gales, President, ADM-Collingwood Grain (PDF of Presentation)

3:30 pm Break
3:45 pm Executing Growth Strategies with a Diverse Membership
The National Grape Cooperative/Welch Foods Story

Bruce Anderson, Director, Cornell Cooperative Enterprise Program (Moderator)

Dan Dillon, President and CEO, Welch Foods

C. Robert Militello, Director, National Grape Cooperative and Welch Foods

5:00 pm Wrap-up for the Day

Mike Cook, Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Missouri-Columbia

5:30 pm Reception

Evening Banquet

Bob Cropp, Professor Emeritus, University of Wisconsin— Madison (Introduction)

Steve Johnson, Director of Corporate Training, SYSCO, Wisconsin (PDF of Presentation)

Mr. Johnson has spent 36 years in Food Services, 23 of them at SYSCO. He lives in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin and is a current member of the Scenic Rivers Co-op and AMPI.

Friday, October 31
7:00 am Continental Breakfast

Sponsored by Lindquist & Vennum

7:45 am Opening Remarks

Joel Dahlgren, Attorney, Lindquist and Vennum PLLP

8:00 am Executing Growth Strategies: Achieving a Strong Brand Name

Shermain Hardesty, Director, UC-Davis Center for Cooperatives, (Moderator)

Don Schriver, Vice President, Dairy Farmers of America (PDF of Presentation)

Jerry McGeorge , Cooperative Coordinator, CROPP (PDF of Presentation)

9:15 am Keys to Success: A Synthesis of Co-op Cases

William Nelson, President, The Cooperative Foundation and CHS Cooperatives Foundation (Moderator)

Mark Hanson, Attorney, Lindquist and Vennum PLLP

Mike Boland, Associate Director, Arthur Capper Cooperative Center, Kansas State University (PDF of Presentation)

Harvard Business School pioneered the use of cases in business education. The Arthur Capper Cooperative Center has written over 25 such cases on agribusiness firms, including many cooperatives. Mike will share a summary of what they have learned through their case study research. The following cooperative experiences will be included in his discussion: Dakota Growers Pasta Company, Ocean Spray, American Crystal Sugar, and Minnesota Corn Processors.

10:30 am Break
11:00 am Closing Comments: What to Take Home

Anne Reynolds, Interim Director, University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives (Moderator)

Mike Maranell, Senior Vice President, AGP

Will Hughes, Administrator, Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection

Noon Adjourn