Landmark Services Cooperative Hosts 88th Annual Meeting

Final annual meeting as Landmark Services Cooperative

COTTAGE GROVE, WI, March 2, 2021 – Landmark Services Cooperative held the 88th annual meeting on February 25, 2021, virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

The meeting was called to order by Board Chairman Jim Lange. Lange then welcomed guests and introduced the board of directors prior to giving his chairman’s report.

Secretary Kevin Klahn reported on the minutes from last year’s annual meeting and informed the group that these had been approved at the January 2020 board of directors’ meeting.

Chairman Lange gave the chairman’s report including topics addressing COVID-19 challenges and how Landmark overcame them to keep business running efficiently, the upcoming merger with Countryside Cooperative, board of directors’ training, a recap on the donations made through the Landmark Gives Back program, including scholarships, summer lunch programs, breakfast on the farm, Lennox Feel the Love program, and the Second Harvest Foodbank contributions, and the hopeful prospect of hosting customer appreciation events later in 2021

Jeff Brandenburg, independent auditor, stated that CliftonLarsonAllen found Landmark’s financial statements to be accurate and issued an unqualified opinion on the financial statements.

Chief Financial Officer Keith Arnold presented the financial report comprising of an overview of the 2020 statement of operations performance, consolidated balance sheet, financial analysis for the past five years of working capital, local net worth and cash returned to patrons. Arnold also touched on Landmark’s PPP loan through the SBA.

President and CEO Jim Dell provided the management report and opened by thanking Landmark’s members, board of directors and employees. Dell’s report provided a recap of the 2020 fiscal year and an overview of Landmark’s equity, section 199A deduction, and capital expenditures. Dell recapped the focus of the 2020 fiscal year – 2020 and Beyond – which included evaluating and optimizing staffing needs and Landmark’s asset base, improving sales growth, growing Verity Financing, completing key capital expenditure projects within budget, and improving communications to our members. Dell also discussed the ‘Partnering for 2021’ theme that focuses on the board, management team, and the NEWCO team living the Mission of “Advancing our customers through innovative and responsible solutions” while focusing on the Vision “Customer success powered by engaged employees”, and while adhering to the key Values of safety, integrity, passion, accountability, and financial responsibility.

Chairman Lange reviewed the bylaw amendments that had been passed; two amendments were due to the COVID-19 pandemic and four were specifically related to the merger with Countryside.

Director Jon Prochnow announced his stepping down from Landmark’s Board of Directors. Jon served on the board for 9 years. During his time, Jon helped spearhead steady growth of the cooperative, including the Fall River elevator and merger with Countryside. In his remarks he spoke highly of the cooperative, CEO Dell and the Board of Directors, and their dedication.

Chairman Lange called for any new business and there was none. It was announced that the FY2021 annual meeting would be held the week of December 13, 2021, likely with two meetings, one in the north region and one in the south region. The meeting was adjourned.

To watch the annual meeting livestream recording or read any of the materials, please visit our Annual Meeting web page.

 

Successful merger between Landmark Services Cooperative and Countryside Cooperative is official

Two Wisconsin-based cooperatives, Landmark Services Cooperative and Countryside Cooperative have officially merged as of 12:01 a.m. CST on March 1, 2021. “As we focused on the benefits the merger would bring, we quickly realized that growing together would only make us stronger,” said Board Chairman Jim Lange. “The board is excited for what the weeks, months and years to come will look like for the new co-op.”

Members of both boards determined that joining the resources of two long-standing, successful cooperatives will increase their competitive advantage in ever-changing local and global agriculture markets and drive increased value to members and employees. Countryside members voted ‘yes’ to the merger in August 2020.

For both cooperatives, this is another chapter in the long and storied histories of mergers and growth—one that is focused on making our new cooperative better for members, customers, employees and communities. As these two organizations come together to create one unified business unit, we want to acknowledge that the legacy of the mother companies will remain strong.

“Landmark and Countryside are committed to proactively facing the challenges in the marketplace and helping our members and employees thrive,” said Jim Dell, Landmark CEO and President and CEO and President of the new cooperative. “The board and employees of the new cooperative will live the mission of “advancing our customers through innovative and responsible solutions” while focusing on our vision “customer success powered by engaged employees,” and all while adhering to our values of safety, integrity, passion, accountability, and financial responsibility.”

The newly formed cooperative is in the process of rebranding, working on a new trademark name, logo development and more with an external marketing agency. A name and branding announcement will come later in 2021. In the interim, the new cooperative will be co-branding digital platforms and documents such as statements.

The new cooperative will serve more than 26,000 members, employ over 800 people (includes full-time, part-time and seasonal), and generate annual sales in excess of $600M. The combined organization will be headquartered in Cottage Grove, WI.

The cooperative will continue to maintain operations and staff at multiple locations, with an expanded geographical footprint covering Southern and West-Central Wisconsin, Northern Illinois, Eastern Iowa, and Eastern Minnesota. The new coop will offer benefits including innovative logistics opportunities, sharing of agronomy assets, and backup feed mill options.

“The board of directors feel positive about this decision to merge two strong organizations. This decision allows the new cooperative to compete within the ag industry while being profitable and protecting our members’ equities,” said Board Vice Chairman, John Creaser.

“The hard work and dedication that every one of our employees has given to our new organization to make today and future days possible does not go unnoticed. Without the support from the staff and our board of directors, this merger would not have been possible,” commented Dell.

Merger Update – Divisional News

We have already been realizing benefits from the greater size and strength of our unified cooperatives and have some recent updates from our divisions.

Agronomy – We had significant interest from the north region sales teams in Landmark technology offerings and Verity financing programs. Also, the first joint price page was released, allowing us to leverage our vendors on specific products for the whole territory.

Animal Nutrition – We rolled out the “NewCo” Forage Solutions Pricebook as part of the Forage Solutions brand, which includes Plastics, Acids, and Inoculants. A great deal of effort went into evaluating suppliers and negotiating pricing over the last three months. One joint program will ensure consistency of products and pricing across the marketplace for the year.

In addition, Countryside moved forward with an agreement to have Direct Source Ingredients (DSI) help source bulk feed ingredients. Landmark had been successfully partnering with DSI for the last 12 months, and these same procurement opportunities will now be captured across the entire “NewCo” footprint. The Countryside team did a great job of ensuring a smooth transition with DSI, suppliers, and haulers. As this relationship continues to evolve, there will be more opportunities for forward contracting and risk management, which will bring additional benefits to our members and the overall business.

Energy – The Landmark and Countryside Energy teams have negotiated a favorable unified agreement with our preferred tank telemetry monitor partner, which will allow both regions to quickly replace aging technology in the field, deploy additional monitors to appropriate tanks, and improve our ability to integrate tank level readings within AgVantage.

Energy Trucks – A Landmark delivery energy truck was recently used in the north region to meet customers’ needs while addressing some unexpected repairs to the Countryside region fleet.

Grain Division – Time spent looking at markets in and around both regions has given the collective merchandising team a more comprehensive view of the grain market and available opportunities. The larger geography and exposure to different markets is already transforming our merchandising approach.

Marketing – Both teams have been working collaboratively to help strategize how merger updates are being communicated to our customers, growers, employees, and the public. The teams continue to work together on joint efforts to support the divisions with marketing, sponsorship, events, and other needs.

IT – The IT team took a critical step in the merger integration process by connecting the Countryside and Landmark networks. This foundation will allow for the future sharing of applications and data, as well as seamless login access, while working in either cooperative region.

Verity Loan Financing Program – The first Verity loan was approved in the Countryside region. As of December 14, 2020, the Countryside team has submitted $2,300,000 in Verity applications.

Multiple Divisions – Landmark Logistics and the grain division had a need for truck support in our heavy bean transfer program this fall. Countryside had two excess trucks and drivers during this window and sent them down to help, which allowed Landmark to keep grain assets open and receive farmer bushels without pause. As a bonus, when the trucks were finished helping the grain division, Landmark animal nutrition was able to load them up and backhaul canola to support Countryside’s animal nutrition needs. Agronomy application machinery was used in both regions.

Earlier in the month, an HVAC team member had a sales call with a new home construction prospect and asked them why they decided to purchase from us. The customer said they received a sales flyer from us and another from Premier Co-op, and chose to go with us because our flyer looked a lot more professional and highlighted our online bill payment systems.

The Rebranding Steering Committee continues to meet weekly. This committee consists of members from various divisions of both organizations. The team is working with C|O nxt (formerly Charleston Orwig) agency to analyze our current brands, values, and priorities in order to develop the new name and brand for our new organization.

Merger Update

The coming months are going to be busy as we approach our merger effective date of March 1, 2021. Strategic organization and collaboration have enabled us to achieve milestones and establish the basis for a successful integration, and employees in both regions have shown hard work, passion, and dedication throughout the process. The latest merger updates include the formation of the leadership team, the report of a positive fiscal year for Countryside, and recent wins for our cooperatives.

Leadership Team

The leadership team’s commitment to fostering the success of NewCo, helping our members thrive, and supporting the growth and well-being of our employees is essential to pursuing our vision  and fulfilling our mission every day. Our new executive leadership team consists of:

CEO and President: Jim Dell
Chief Financial Officer: Keith Arnold
Chief Human Resources Officer: Michelle Leeder
Chief Information and Communications Officer: Don Schlising
Chief Sales Officer: Jim Tiedke
Northern Business Unit Manager: Rodney Balvitsch
Vice President of Agronomy: Nick Christen
Vice President of Animal Nutrition: Aric Dieter
Vice President of Credit: Hans Pflieger
Vice President of Energy: Lee Parker
Vice President of Grain: Lacey Seibert
Vice President of Risk Management: Dean Danielson

Countryside Financial Reporting

In December, Countryside reported a strong fiscal year, with a reduction in short- and long-term debt, increase in total patron equity, and a significant improvement in several profitability metrics.