A Season of Opportunities
Apr 09, 2022
Spring is just around the corner. A season that brings new life, renewal, growth, and prosperity. For me personally, spring is the perfect reminder that no matter how challenging life may seem a new season of rebirth and regeneration is ahead. Professionally speaking there is no better metaphor to describe the season in which your cooperative is in. We are halfway through fiscal year 2022, and there has been no shortage of headwinds. From supply chain disruptions, price increases, labor shortages and geopolitical influences, all divisions of UFC have experienced challenges most of us never expected in our lifetime. Yet through hard work, strong attention to detail and creative problem solving, your cooperative continues to be financially strong and future focused. I am optimistic about the many opportunities available to us in the season ahead, and you should be too!
Looking ahead, here are three key opportunities your board of directors is focusing on:
UFC’s existing equity retirement policy allows members to receive their payout at age 69, and then again at age 79 and annually thereafter. While this policy has served UFC members well, your board of directors is focused on improving this policy and accelerating the payout process for future generations. Due to year- over-year increased profitability, we have the financial flexibility to accomplish this. We will continue to pay out existing retirement equity to those who meet the age requirements as part of the original policy. At the same time, increased profitability has also given us an opportunity to distribute cash patronage back into members’ pockets before age 69. We recognize that expediting this process and sharing profits in a more timely manner with our members can positively impact you and your operation. Ensuring the financial stability of your cooperative, as well as returning profits and added value to UFC patrons will continue to be our top priority!
INVESTING IN OUR BIGGEST ASSETS, OUR EMPLOYEES
Our employees are our biggest asset. They are the “boots on the ground” who execute goals, help implement improvements, and ensure your needs are met daily. For this reason, recruiting and retaining top talent is a critical area of focus for your board of directors. The growth and longevity of the cooperative depends on this. There is more to recruiting and retaining employees than submitting a hiring ad in the newspaper and signing a paycheck. Our employees are like family. It is our responsibility to ensure we are providing them with a safe and enjoyable workplace that promotes professional growth, encourages continued education, and empowers ambition with proper tools and resources.
There are a few different opportunities that will allow us to invest in our employees. The first has a financial focus. Throughout the past two and a half years, UFC has undergone significant changes and accomplished tremendous goals resulting in stronger financials thanks to our employees. During this time, they endured significant change, stressful situations and longer than normal hours. Yet, they stuck with it to get the job done and continue to do so today. If we want to keep the talented individuals we have, and be a sought after employer that attracts top talent,
we must take care of our employees. Showing our gratitude and appreciation for employees through financial bonuses is just one of many ways we can accomplish this. Financial bonuses and profit-sharing payouts is something we would like to offer well into the future, financial position permitting.
The second way we are investing in our employees, and arguably the most important, is through safety. Providing employees with the proper safety gear and training is crucial to protecting them and keeping them on the job. The board of directors is in the process of touring all UFC assets for two reasons. First, this is an opportunity to tour the countryside and connect with employees. We can talk with them, understand what is working well and areas for improvement, and experience systems and processes first-hand. Having this open line of communication with employees provides us with information necessary to conduct assessments on safety, identify improvements and put corrective measures into place.
INVESTING IN ASSETS STRATEGICALLY
Recruiting and retaining employees goes hand in hand with the next opportunity your board of directors is focused on - investing in physical assets. In addition to having enough employees, we must re-invest in physical assets through technology and infrastructure improvements to grow with producers and continue to serve their needs. New technology will introduce operational efficiencies alleviating some pressure caused by labor shortages. Introducing new technology can also reduce risk and improve overall safety for employees and patrons. For example, new micronutrient dispensers were installed at the Le Sueur feed mill recently. Thanks to this new technology, the asset is more efficient and employees are at less risk as they do not have to handle materials directly. These investments won’t happen all at once. The board of directors is strategically assessing and prioritizing where the dollars will be put to work first based on immediate need. With more technology and better infrastructure in place, operational efficiencies will be established allowing us to better serve our patrons.
It is an honor to serve as your chairman, and I look forward to the exciting season of opportunities ahead for UFC!
-Jeff Manderscheid, Chairman of the Board