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Changing the face of our co-ops

Audrey Hofferber is the CEO of Texhoma Wheat Growers in Texhoma, Oklahoma.

Audrey Hofferber is the CEO of Texhoma Wheat Growers in Texhoma, Oklahoma.

By Samantha Smith, Oklahoma Agricultural Cooperative Council

Audrey Hofferber began her career in the cooperative system 1993 as an office assistant at Hooker Equity Exchange in Hooker, Oklahoma. Now, more than twenty years later, she is one of the few females in Oklahoma to reach the top level of leadership in the cooperative system.

Growing up in agriculture, Hofferber was exposed to the cooperative system at a young age. Farming and ranching was her way of life growing up, and a career in the agricultural sector made sense to the native Coloradan.

After years of working as an office assistant in the co-op, Hofferber was promoted to Chief Financial Officer for the company. It was there that she found her love of numbers and learning how the cooperative ran. While she loved her job as CFO, she found herself wanting more.

“I wanted to be a general manager,” Hofferber said, “I just never felt like I had enough knowledge or the confidence in myself that I really needed to step up and apply for the position.”

But her former supervisor thought otherwise. In June of 2011, Hofferber reached her goal when she accepted the job as CEO of Texhoma Wheat Growers, a full-service co-op located on the Oklahoma-Texas line in the iconic Oklahoma Pandhandle.

But reaching this goal has not proven easy for women across the state and nation. Only a handful of females hold general manager positions at cooperatives in Oklahoma.

“I don’t think the ag world has completely accepted women,” Hofferber said. “I don’t think the industry as a whole has become comfortable with women working in agriculture.”

With 98 percent of Texhoma Wheat Growers’ customers being male, it took awhile to gain her customer base’s trust when she started as a general manager, Hofferber said.

“It took me a long time, but once I really gained that trust with my customers, they came to me for everything,” she said. “I’m not one who sits back and watches. I dive in. I fix the fuel pumps. I load feed and chemicals. I interact with my customers quite a bit to earn their trust, and soon they figured out the knowledge I bring to the position.”

Gaining that trust with customers seems to come a little easier to her male counterparts though, she said.

“It just seems like no matter where you go, we as females have to start at the bottom building that trust level where a male instantly has that trust level handed to him,” Hofferber said.

Tonya Meyers, CEO of Farmers Cooperative Association in Snyder, Oklahoma, is another one of the women breaking through the glass ceiling, but she says she doesn’t feel like she’s treated any differently than her male counterparts.

“I am the lone woman in a man’s world at all the meetings I go to,” Meyers said, “but none of the men have ever made me feel like I didn’t belong. I just tell them that I’m no different from anybody else. They shouldn’t feel like they have to treat me special.”

Hofferber and Meyers, like any other managers at cooperatives, are governed by a board of directors made up of their co-ops member producers. The managers run the day-to-day operation, while the board is responsible for approving major strategic and financial decisions of the co-op while monitoring and partnering with the CEO.

Phil Kenkel, Bill Fitzwater Cooperative Chair at Oklahoma State University, published a paper with the CHS Center for Cooperative Growth in 2015 looking at the need for board diversity in agricultural cooperatives across the nation.

Lack of gender diversity, he said, is not uncommon in cooperatives, especially when it comes to cooperative boards of directors.

“Females make up just over 3 percent of board members in agricultural cooperatives, the lowest representation of any cooperative sector,” Kenkel said in his paper. “The general finding is that agricultural cooperatives clearly trail other cooperative sectors and investor-owned firms in board gender diversity.”

Ag cooperatives are not the only co-ops who are behind the curve when it comes to gender diversity on their boards. Mutual insurance cooperatives have an average of 6.4 percent of their boards made up by females, followed by Farm Credit boards at 7.2 percent and rural electric boards at 8.9 percent.

Female board members, Kenkel said, can bring a whole new perspective to the board room, resulting in finding new ways to solve problems.

“Women have always been important team members in farm operations, yet the agricultural cooperatives with which they do business have not historically included them in leadership roles,” Kenkel said. “Women also make up a significant portion of the cooperative workforce, and female representation on the board gives those employees a greater sense of connection with the cooperative and improves the perception of career path.”

Hofferber says electing female cooperative members to the board is accompanied by a number of benefits in the board room.

“Women just have a different outlook on things and a different way of approaching things,” Hofferber said. “Women would have a lot to offer the board if they were just given the chance to serve on them.”

Meyers said females bring an attention to detail to the board room that an all-male board is sometimes lacking, but nominating a woman to the board has not been an easy task to accomplish.

“I believe women are a lot more detail oriented and look further into problems,” Meyers said. “We have to convince our members that we can nominate them. It’s just the mentality that our members have right now – when they think of a farmer, they don’t think of a woman. But I think female board members would be a benefit if we could get someone to be nominated. It just seems to be hard to do that.”

Although gender diversity is a new topic to the co-op system, Hofferber is optimistic that change and acceptance is on the horizon.

“I think women have to know that the glass ceiling is there, and you have to be able to accept that it’s there and pursue on,” Hofferber said. “We are making progress. I would like to see more progress made, but we are getting there slowly but surely.”

Meyers agrees with the progress.

“I feel like there was progress made when I was hired,” she said. “I’m confident we will get to a point where co-op women aren’t a rarity.”

Clinton-Butler co-op’s Clint Roush receives prestigious Governor’s Achievement in Agriculture Award

Clint Roush (second from right), board chairman at Farmers Cooperative Association in Clinton-Butler, was selected for the prestigious Governor's Achievement in Agriculture Award.

Clint Roush (second from right), board chairman at Farmers Cooperative Association in Clinton-Butler, was selected for the prestigious Governor’s Achievement in Agriculture Award.

 

I give the credit to God’s providence in our lives that puts us in the right places, at the right times, to meet the right people.Clint Roush

Dr. Clint Roush of Arapaho watched recently as an easy March breeze rolled across the lush Gallagher wheat that spreads a vibrantly green carpet between East and West Barnitz Creeks in western Oklahoma’s Custer County.

That same gentle wind made the short hair dance on the back of an Angus feeder steer in the lot nearby.

Last week during Ag Day at the state Capitol, Roush was recognized as the 2016 recipient of the Governor’s Outstanding Achievement Award in Agriculture.

Roush’s life has been an example of diversified stewardship. The fourth generation farmer and rancher is a steward of the land but he’s also served as a steward of farm and ag finance students and as a steward of the ag industry itself, serving as a champion of cooperatives for many years.

Just days ago, as Roush stood up on that ridge near Arapaho, he explained he’s not only a steward but that their family – the generations before and those to come – are partners with the land.

“I’ve often heard that generations of farmers come and go, and it seems like they come and go rather rapidly, but the land endures,” Roush said. “Each generation has to make improvements, increase the productivity and maintain the environment so that the next generation can continue to farm.”

In addition to the Governor’s Outstanding Achievement Award in Agriculture, for the second year the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry presented the three additional awards to leaders in the state’s agricultural industry. Last week, Randy Davis received the Agriculture Environmental Stewardship Award, Quintus Herron, the Outstanding Legacy in Agriculture Award,  given posthumously, and Dr. Brett Carver, the Outstanding Public Service in Agriculture Award. The awards were presented on the second floor rotunda of the state Capitol.

Recently, as Roush, 69, looked out across the wheat, past the steers and over to a field of alfalfa, he talked not only about a treasured heritage but also of great opportunities. Roush grew up around his great grandparents and grandparents and was raised right here by his parents. Now, Roush and wife Pam Steiner Roush, the fourth generation of a farm family that came from Switzerland, have three children: daughter Cortney (Roush) and husband Jamie Oakes; daughter Sara (Roush) and husband Josh Brown and son Rusty and wife Chandra Roush. Clint and Pam also have 14 grandchildren and one on the way.

“The thing I like to think about in a multi-generation farm is the transfer of knowledge and the sharing of experiences from one generation to the next,” Roush said. “They (great grandparents, grandparents and parents) shared their wisdom, they shared their experience. So each generation adds on additional information, additional knowledge and additional technology as the generations go through.

“I look forward to the time when future generations of our farming operation deal with the amount of information that’s available, the new technology like precision farming and the use of drones.”

In terms of leadership, Roush credits his parents Harold and Essie Roush, as well as those such as Tuffy Howell, his FFA advisor and vocational ag instructor, Dr. John Goodwin, his first advisor at Oklahoma State University, and Dr. James Plaxico, who was Head of the Agricultural Economics Department.

“(Dr. Plaxico) took a chance on me and got me involved in teaching Farm Financial Management, Agricultural Finance, and doing Extension work with farmers and ranchers and agricultural lenders,” Roush said. “This again was a tremendous advantage, getting to know all the people that we work with across the state of Oklahoma in the farm finance and agriculture finance area.”

Roush carried what he learned from those individuals and others into his own classrooms. His commitment to agriculture includes a combined 14 years of teaching and consulting experience in agriculture finance, farm financial planning, business management and strategic farm planning at Oklahoma State University and Southwestern Oklahoma State University.

He has also been a steward of the ag industry through various forms of service.

Roush has held positions on the board of directors for nationally recognized institutions such as CoBank (2012 to present) and U.S. Ag Bank (2010-2011) and advisory council positions on the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank (1998-2003), Oklahoma State University Bill Fitzwater Endowment Cooperative Chair (2000 to present) and the Noble Foundation Agricultural Council (1998-2003).

Regionally Roush has served as director for the Farm Credit of Western Oklahoma (1988-2009), Clinton Oklahoma Farmers Cooperative (1995 to present), Custer County Rural Water District (2013 to present), Custer County Cattlemen’s Association (since 2000), and is a lifetime member of the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association.

“I give the credit to God’s providence in our lives that puts us in the right places, at the right times, to meet the right people,” Roush said.

Roush has consistently demonstrated his focus on rural Oklahoma and America.

A life-long commitment to the agricultural industry has translated into many hours studying the issues at hand and traveling to board meetings and other events. He has become an expert on board procedures, human capital policies, strategic planning and reviewing data that compliments his fully developed leadership skills.

His commitment ties right back to stewardship, and that’s about much more than just good business.

“(Stewardship) has been a way of life in our family,” Roush said.

Co-op managers, directors attend OACC Annual Meeting and Legislative Day

Rep. Harold Wright talks to members of Farmers Coop in Weatherford about issues concerning their cooperative business.

Rep. Harold Wright talks to members of Farmers Coop in Weatherford about issues concerning their cooperative business.

More than 50 OACC members and directors attended the 2016 OACC Annual Meeting and Legislative today in Oklahoma City. Legislative issues, bylaw changes and board elections were the main topics of discussion during the meeting.

Held in Oklahoma City each year, the OACC Annual Meeting and Legislative Day is aimed at inviting co-op managers and directors to the Capitol to talk to their legislators about issues pertinent to their businesses.

“It’s so important that we as co-op managers and directors get in front of our legislators and let them know what’s going to affect us legislatively,” said Kenny Hahn, OACC board chairman and CEO of Planters Cooperative Association in Lone Wolf, Oklahoma. “We represent our membership, and we need to be their voice when it comes to letting our legislators know where we stand on issues and how it will affect our cooperative businesses.”

In a year where talk is centered around the state budget and where the state will make up the deficit, members of the OACC want to ensure that the agricultural sales tax exemptions remain in place.

Garber Coop's Ernie Theilen (right) talks with Rep. John Pfeiffer at the State Capitol.

Garber Coop’s Ernie Theilen (right) talks with Rep. John Pfeiffer at the State Capitol.

“The Oklahoma Agricultural Cooperative Council and its members oppose any change to the agricultural sales tax exemption,” said RJ Gray, President and CEO of the OACC. “While we understand our state is in a budget crisis, taxing farmers and ranchers on their agricultural sales expenses is not the way to make up the deficit. Farmers need their sales tax exemptions in order to run a profitable business and contribute to the overall industry goal of feeding the world. Without these exemptions, those directly involved in farming and ranching would be negatively affected, causing a major downturn in one of our state’s largest industries.”

The following bills were also topics of conversation among co-op representatives and elected officials:

HB 2554 – SUPPORT

It allows for a non-domiciled learner permit or a non-domiciled commercial drivers license to an H2A-Temporary worker lawfully present in the United States. This will allow for custom harvesters to drive in Oklahoma legally.

HB 2351 – SUPPORT

This requires the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry to keep electronic mail address confidential through online licensing programs and not to be released pursuant to the open records act.

HB 2502 – SUPPORT

It removes the requirement that an applicant’s signature be submitted under oath under the Oklahoma Fertilizer Act, Oklahoma Swine Feed Operations Act, and the Oklahoma Concentrated Animal Feeding Operating Act.

The voting membership present at the annual meeting voted to approve several bylaw changes and re-elected three representatives to the OACC board of directors: Kenny Hahn, Planters Cooperative Association; Jim Franklin, Sooner Cooperative, Inc.; and Austin Rose, Producers Cooperative Oil Mill. David Bonds of Banner Cooperative was also elected to serve on the OACC advisory board.

OACC supports national standard for biotech labeling

 

Biotech LabelingThe Oklahoma Agricultural Cooperative Council issued an action alert this week concerning the biotech labeling legislation awaiting Senate action. The OACC called on its members to contact their U.S. Senators and ask them to support the proposed legislation for a national food labeling standard.

The legislation is currently being ran by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. Chairman Roberts’ legislation proposes a uniform national standard for labeling foods containing biotech ingredients and would avoid a costly patchwork of state-by-state labeling laws. The legislation proposes a voluntary labeling rule governed by the USDA, immediate and permanent preemption of all state mandatory GMO labeling laws. It directs USDA to establish standards and definitions surrounding the term GMO and develop a public education initiative highlighting the safety of biotechnology and raise consumer awareness concerning where voluntary information can be found about food products containing biotech ingredients.

“We need our members and those involved in agriculture to be proactive in this process and tell their legislators how this legislation, or the failure of this legislation, will affect them,” said RJ Gray, president and CEO of the OACC. “It is vitally important for the Senate to take expedited action in order to avoid the economic costs of a patchwork of state laws that will directly impact consumers, farmers, agribusinesses, food and feed manufacturers and retailers.”

The passage of the legislation is needed to prevent the biotech labeling laws passed by the state of Vermont from going into effect in July. Ag groups, including the OACC and National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, fear that the implementation of this law would cause a number of states to pass their own biotech labeling laws, resulting in complexity and chaos in the marketplace and a drastic increase in food prices for hard-working Americans.

“It is critical that any legislation addressing this issue move forward as soon as possible this year to avoid Vermont’s GMO labeling law from becoming effective and drastically changing the landscape of food production,” Gray said. “While we wouldn’t normally support federal regulation, we believe this is one area that needs it.”

When food is produced, it is shipped to multiple states for retail. If the Senate does not pass this national food labeling standard, products going to each respective state would need a different label, costing an exuberant amount of time and money, Gray said.

“Unless Congress acts, food cost is expected to increase by $82 million, and families can expect to see their food bills go up at least $1,000 per year,” Gray said. “Most families simply can’t afford that. Sen. Roberts’ proposal is a reasonable solution to this issue, and we ask all advocates for the agricultural industry to support it.”

The proposal is set to be marked up in the Senate Agriculture Committee next week.

Help us take action and contact your U.S. Senators and ask them to support the national standard for biotech labeling.

 

Who is the OACC?

Founded in 1973, the Oklahoma Agricultural Cooperative Council is a member-supported organization advocating for agricultural cooperatives and their producer members. Our mission is to enhance the understanding of cooperatives and advance their development. The OACC serves as the voice for agricultural cooperatives in the legislative and regulatory affairs process and provides educational resources to help strengthen our member cooperatives. Our members include local, statewide and regional agricultural cooperatives that help their farming and ranching members remain competitive in a global marketplace.

“We strive to provide our membership with a legislative voice and educational opportunities for ag cooperatives to strengthen their knowledge when it comes to running their multi-million dollar businesses,” said RJ Gray, President and CEO of the OACC. “We hope our readers will engage with us and help us tell the cooperative story.”

Jim Franklin, general manager at Sooner Co-op in Okeene, Oklahoma, said having a legislative mouthpiece for co-ops in Oklahoma is the most beneficial aspect of being a member.

“Having the OACC as our legislative voice is critical to the co-op system,” Franklin said. “It’s really our only voice as a co-op in the state when it comes to protecting our needs on the state and federal level.”

Franklin said the OACC’s lobbying efforts have saved him from numerous issues that could have negatively affected the co-op system.

“I’ve seen some accomplishments we’ve had through the legislature with above ground fuel storage tanks, waste tires and some of those things that are saving co-ops in Oklahoma a lot of money,” he said.

 

The OACC also offers a variety of education programs for cooperative directors and their employees to enhance their understanding of the cooperative system and provide them with the tools to advance their businesses. By working together with the Bill Fitzwater Cooperative Endowed Chair at Oklahoma State University, the OACC provides training opportunities on topics including governance, management, finance and strategic planning as well as seminars on timely issues facing cooperatives.

Franklin said when his board members attend the OACC’s educational trainings, he sees the results immediately.

“Any time I can get board members educated in any kind of training the OACC provides, I see it in the board room immediately whether it’s in leadership or just in knowledge that they gain,” Franklin said. “Confidence is a big thing they gain when they further their education about co-ops.”

The educational trainings provided by the OACC aim to give co-op managers and board members the opportunities to interact with farmers from other areas of the state to see what works, what doesn’t work and where they can improve when it comes to running their co-op, Gray said.

“There’s so much that can be learned by just talking to farmers and co-op managers in other areas of the state,” Gray said. “We think of our educational events as opportunities to enhance their knowledge as well as give them a chance to get to know other farmers who face the same problems that they do.”

Continuing education, he said, is one of the primary duties of board members to ensure their co-ops are functioning as efficiently as possible.

“If board members truly care about the future of their co-ops, the choice to attend our educational trainings should be easy,” Gray said. “Managers and board members should be constantly learning and trying to grow their business. Without education, co-op boards will continue to run their businesses like they did 25 years ago, which unfortunately will not grow their business in today’s times.”

In addition to legislative and educational efforts, the OACC also offers business consulting for cooperative businesses including facilitating strategic planning sessions for cooperative boards and staff, performance and compensation appraisals and evaluations for CEOs and general managers and consulting on other management issues.

 

An OACC-facilitated strategic planning session can help cooperative leaders set priorities, focus energy and resources, strengthen operations and ensure that directors and employees are working toward common goals. Effective strategic planning articulates not only where the cooperative is going and the actions needed to make progress, but also provides measurements of success to help ensure that goals are achieved.

If you have more questions about what we do or who we are as an organization, feel free to check out our website, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

OACC informs producers about State Question 777

SQ777 LogoRoad trips to Aline and Cherokee, Oklahoma, this week allowed the OACC to get out in the country and share information about State Question 777: Oklahoma’s Right to Farm. RJ and Sam traveled to see members of Farmers Cooperative, headquartered in Carmen and ran by manager John Swart, and talk with them about why they should support the Right to Farm.

Right to Farm is an Oklahoma state constitutional amendment to protect Oklahoma’s family farmers and ranchers from unreasonable government interference and attacks by our state special interest groups. If voters approve State Question 777, farmers and ranchers will have additional constitutional protections that they currently lack, and desperately need. Right to Farm will be another “tool in the toolbox” for Oklahoma farmers and ranchers to defend themselves.

Want more information? Invite us to your annual meeting and we would be happy to attend and talk to your members about this initiative

Applications now being accepted for 2016 OACC summer internship

The OACC is now accepting applications for the 2016 summer internship. For those of you interested in hosting an intern this summer, please complete the short survey below. If you know of a college student ages freshman to senior who might be interested in completing the internship, have them complete an application and résumé and send it to Sam Smith at ssmith@okagcoop.org. Applications are due March 4, 2016.

The OACC, along with local and regional agricultural cooperatives, facilitate an internship program aimed at recruiting young professionals into the agricultural cooperative system. The program provides students an opportunity to experience all aspects of the cooperative system, from agronomy and sales to grain marketing, business management and much more.

The Council will hire 7 to 10 interns for the 2016 year and place you at a local cooperative based on your interests and location. You will complete a two-day orientation in Oklahoma City before beginning your internship with your cooperative.

After 11 weeks at the local coop, you will return to Oklahoma City for the OACC Intern Regional Tour where staff will travel with you around the state meeting with other companies within the cooperative system including CoBank, Farm Credit, Land O’Lakes, Winfield, CHS and numerous others.

You will be given a special project assignment at the beginning of your internship to be completed during your 11 weeks with the help of your coop manager. You will present your findings during the regional tour where OACC staff and participating managers will choose the top four interns based on project presentations. The top four interns will receive an all-expense paid trip to the OACC CEO & Board Retreat at Horseshoe Bay Resort in Marble Falls, Texas, at the end of July – an excellent opportunity to meet and network with hundreds of potential employers.

Applications can be found at: http://okagcoop.org/internship/

Managers and directors learn co-op fundamentals at OACC training course

2015 OCDE LogoTuesday and Wednesday this week brought nearly 30 Oklahoma co-op managers and directors to Stillwater for the OACC’s Oklahoma Cooperative Director Essentials course. The course, designed for new managers and directors, outlines the essential information needed to effectively serve on a co-op board of directors.

Kyle Glazier, board member at Sooner Co-op in Okeene, said the course helped him become familiar with aspects of the co-op he didn’t quite understand, allowing him to see where he could improve as a board member.

“I’m so glad our co-op has gotten involved with the Council,” Glazier said. “The educational training is so beneficial to becoming a better, more informed board member.”

With attendance lower than usual, the OACC fears managers and board members are not seeing the value of furthering their education when it comes to running their respective cooperatives.

“Co-op board members are in charge of making decisions that affect multi-million dollar companies,” said RJ Gray, President and CEO of the Oklahoma Agricultural Cooperative Council. “It is vitally important that they take advantage of the educational trainings available to them to ensure they are equipped to make good decisions regarding the co-op.”

Glazier said the cost of attendance might deter some managers and board members because the benefit does not come with a dollar sign attached.

“I think a lot of directors don’t see the benefit because the outcome is hard to measure,” he said. “I have gained so much knowledge about how to improve my co-op through my role as a board member from the training and from networking with other board members from co-ops around the state. It’s hard to tangibly measure, but the benefits far outweigh the cost of attendance.”

Keep an eye out for future educational opportunities from the OACC throughout the year. Dates for 2016 will be released soon and we hope to see more managers and directors at our event next year!

OACC members attend OCD Advanced director training course

Bill Oemichen, retired CEO of Cooperative Network, traveled all the way from Wisconsin to speak to members at our OCD Advanced program yesterday. Oemichen talked about co-op board roles including direction, discussion and engagement in and out of the board room.

Bill Oemichen, retired CEO of Cooperative Network, traveled all the way from Wisconsin to speak to members at our OCD Advanced program yesterday. Oemichen talked about co-op board roles including direction, discussion and engagement in and out of the board room.

Thanks to the 24 managers and directors who attended our Oklahoma Cooperative Director Advanced training course yesterday in Midwest City! It was great to see many of you take advantage of the director training that the OACC offers.

Yesterday’s meeting covered topics including communicating your cooperative story, board roles in and out of the board room, farm succession planning, and profit distribution models, trends and strategies, and State Question 777: Oklahoma’s Right to Farm. We hope everyone left with valuable information to help them improve their respective cooperatives.

The slate of speakers featured Bill Oemichen, retired CEO of Cooperative Network; Craig Korol, Korol Financial; Phil Kenkel, Bill Fitzwater Cooperative Chair; Marty Shaffer, Campbell, Shaffer & Co.; and Michael Kelsey, Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association.

Gov. Fallin declares October Co-op Month in Oklahoma

RJ Gray, President and CEO of the Oklahoma Agricultural Cooperative Council, and Kenny Hahn, CEO of Planters Cooperative Association in Lone Wolf, Oklahoma, and board chairman of the OACC, display the proclamation signed by Gov. Mary Fallin declaring October Co-op Month in Oklahoma.

RJ Gray, President and CEO of the Oklahoma Agricultural Cooperative Council, and Kenny Hahn, CEO of Planters Cooperative Association in Lone Wolf, Oklahoma, and board chairman of the OACC, display the proclamation signed by Gov. Mary Fallin declaring October Co-op Month in Oklahoma.

Gov. Mary Fallin recently proclaimed October Co-op Month in Oklahoma. The governor signed an official proclamation recognizing that Oklahoma cooperatives have a major impact on the state’s economy and are owned and operated by their members.

With more than 40 agricultural cooperative businesses in Oklahoma and thousands of members, the impact the industry is substantial to the state’s economy.

“Agricultural cooperatives have a $1.1 billion impact on Oklahoma’s economy,” said Phil Kenkel, Bill Fitzwater Cooperative Chair at Oklahoma State University. “They are a vital part of Oklahoma’s rural landscape. Agricultural co-ops provide fuel, crop nutrients, and crop protection services and assist producers in handling, processing and storing commodities.”

Kenkel recently conducted an economic impact study to estimate the financial effect cooperatives have on the state of Oklahoma.

His research found the presence of agricultural cooperatives in Oklahoma supports 5,340 total jobs and $242 million in employment income. The cooperative industry supplied farmers and ranchers with more than $120 million in inputs and marketed more than $435 million in commodities.

Agricultural cooperatives distributed more than $12 million in profits back to their farmer members in 2014 in the form of patronage, Kenkel said.

“Co-ops and the services they offer are irreplaceable in an agricultural state like Oklahoma,” said RJ Gray, President and CEO of the Oklahoma Agricultural Cooperative Council. “Local cooperative managers and boards of directors work hard to make sure the needs of their members are met and that business is good for the co-op and for farmers.”