The Time Is Now

Nov 09, 2021


The Time Is Now
Those of you who know me well can attest to my intense passion for agriculture and the cooperative system. With that passion comes a continuous desire to strengthen and improve the business model. But that’s not always the easiest task to complete, especially in a member owned business. We’ve all heard the saying “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Unfortunately, this could not be more true for the cooperative system. Throughout the last thirty years, agriculture has evolved into an industry that is driven by technology, innovation and efficiencies and yet, the cooperative system as a whole has lagged in progression compared to the competition with the change and the demands of our member-owners. Traditionally, cooperatives have been reluctant to adopt new processes, implement new technology and explore partnerships because “that’s the way things have always been done.” Emotional attachment, self-preservation and good, old fashion complacency also play a strong role in this. Consequently, the financial health and long-term sustainability of the business have suffered, having an even greater impact on our biggest priority – our patrons. 
 
As the business environment continues to change, I sincerely believe my top priority is to search for strategic opportunities to better position UFC for future success. Throughout the last two years, we have worked swiftly and effectively to refocus our people, products and processes on the core units of the business. Together, we have improved the coop financially, restructured processes and roles for better organization, focused on risk management to protect our employees and those we serve. 
We’re experiencing the positive results of improving our business from the inside out, making us more prepared for the future than ever before. Yet, we are not content. We need to remain aggressive, take action and continue to capitalize on the opportunities that are in front of us today to ensure the business remains viable and successful for the next thirty years and beyond. As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a ripple effect of new headwinds that are impacting all divisions of our business and will continue to do so for years to come. We’re experiencing global logistics and supply chain disruptions, increased demand from growing countries like China, Brazil and Japan, trade and tariff disruptions, and skyrocketing prices to name a few. These new headwinds, coupled with an already challenged economy and labor shortages, further encourage the need for change. 
 
 While the current situation may sound a bit gloomy, I can assure you that I, along with the UFC leadership team and board of directors, view these challenges as a great opportunity to further strengthen the coop. As we progress through fiscal year 2022, we must explore new strategies and partnerships with neighboring coops and industry players. New partnerships will allow us to pool labor resources, capitalize on operational efficiencies and leverage technology and automation at the local level. It is evident while networking with my peers and professionals across the industry that our neighboring coops are facing the same challenges. They are in critical need of strategic partnerships and/or consolidation. We have worked our tails off in the last two years to improve our market position; we now are high on the strategic partner list they are looking for. There are seventeen cooperatives located in south central Minnesota that we directly compete with along with multinational competitors such as Hefty, Nutrien, etc. UFC is geographically located in the center of them all. Rather than going toe to toe with them, it is time we work together to become more efficient, more competitive and more sustainable for our patrons. I firmly believe Minnesota, specifically our geographic territory, is primed and ready for consolidations. UFC is well positioned to help lead the effort in order to better serve our patrons of tomorrow. 
 
I will leave you with a quote from Cael Sanderson, one of the greatest wrestlers and coaches to step on the mat and one of my top inspirations. “Unless you continually work, evolve, and innovate, you’ll learn a quick and painful lesson from someone who has.” Let’s do our part to ensure the cooperative industry is at the forefront of innovation and evolution. Thank you for your trust throughout the last 24 months. We ask that you continue trusting us going forward as we continue to be a resource and partner for you. 
 
 
MITCH ALTERMATT 
CEO & GENERAL MANAGER 
 

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