We are pleased and excited to announce that effective March 1, 2021, Countryside Cooperative and Landmark Services Cooperative merged. The unification of two successful and storied cooperatives creates an organization even better able to serve our members and customers and compete in the competitive agribusiness marketplace.
Looking back at the timeline of the merger, in October 2019 we engaged in initial conversations between the two cooperatives to discuss our missions, visions, and values and to better understand the cultures of our organizations. It didn’t take long for everyone to agree that we operated in similar fashions, held the same values, had similar cultures, and both felt strongly about our dedication to the members we serve.
Soon after, both Boards of Directors and our CEOs made commitments to each other to see if a possible merger would be a great fit for both cooperatives. We met dozens of times – in person when possible and virtually when challenged by the pandemic. We engaged in tours of our cooperatives’ facilities, discussed strategic and future initiatives, combed through our numbers, and started the creation of a framework that would lead to a successful merger – a framework centered around financial stability and strength to safeguard our members’ equities.
Working through our financials we identified up to $5M in savings through combined efficiencies and procurement opportunities, and the ability to make ongoing investments in strategic growth initiatives. As we continued discussions, we identified numerous benefits to our members which included:
- Increased grain marketing opportunities.
- Ability to offer our members expanded input financing options.
- Retaining and attracting the best employees to serve our membership.
- Increasing the value provided to our members by maximizing and utilizing our combined talents across all geographies while continuing to refine our solution offerings and service delivery capabilities.
- Leveraging both cooperatives’ strong asset bases, focusing on upgrades and improvements, and retiring the aging and most costly and underperforming assets.
- Improved logistics to reduce product delivery issues (including agronomy, energy, grain, and animal nutrition) and minimize potential inventory shocks. Increasing our opportunities to leverage river (Illinois, Mississippi), rail (CP, CN, UP) and truck transports for all divisions.
- Opportunity to consolidate, fully utilize, and deploy new technologies that create greater efficiencies, optimize decision making, and improve our members’ experience and how they wish to do business with us.
- Offering our members a better “seat at the table” to be included in more national meetings and discussions as they’re positioned as a member-owner of a top cooperative group.
- Lowering our operational and product costs and introducing efficiencies that will result in a more stable and profitable cooperative, which translates directly to member patronage and the safeguarding and retirement of equities.
There was an equally strong focus on benefits a merger would bring to our employees:
- Creates a more financially stable environment for our employees as we continue to work in an ever-changing and evolving agriculture market.
- Continued competitive salaries and benefits.
- Provides increased opportunities to learn and grow through expanded duties, training, and career advancement and development opportunities across an expanded geography.
- Pooling our talents and expertise makes the new cooperative stronger, providing a more stable foundation for all employees.
- Allows us to maximize the use of newer assets to help our employees better execute their job duties.
- Provides our employees the opportunity to be more efficient and better execute on their job duties through continued investment in technology.
- Ongoing focus on employee safety improvements to make sure everyone is home safe each night with their families.
- Expanded focus on solution offerings and the strategic value they will provide our members.
- Expanded input financing for our members provides the opportunity to increase business within one or all divisions while providing the financial flexibility our members need.
- Additional resources and assets to leverage across all divisions.
As the COVID19 pandemic worsened, both cooperatives briefly paused the merger to focus on the necessary changes to our operations that would ensure our members continued success and the safety of all. Though the merger progression slowed, the discussion and planning continued.
Under the continued pandemic restrictions, we communicated to our membership through physical mailings, our website, social media, small in-person gatherings, and summer town-halls meetings – all leading up to a vote in August of 2020 approving the merger.
The new cooperative now serves more than 26,000 members, employs over 800 people including full-time, part-time, and seasonal employees, and generates annual sales in excess of $600M.
This merger was important to both cooperatives and to the members we serve. We want to continue our growth not only to get bigger, but to get better. We’re committed to advancing our members through innovate and responsible solutions, while focusing on our core values of accountability, financial responsibility, integrity, passion, and safety.
As we move forward as a newly unified cooperative, we’ll be uniting under a new name and brand with the goal of an official rollout in mid-July of 2021. It was important to both cooperatives that we didn’t rush into the planning of a new name and brand until after the merger was officially approved, and we’ll continue to operate in a co-branded fashion as Countryside Landmark until the branding is complete.
We are extremely proud of the dedicated staff and board of directors that work diligently every day to serve our members. Our members that patronize our cooperative are the reason we are here. We are honored to serve those who work to feed a growing population with tenacity, pride, and good stewardship.
Thank you for your partnerships and patronage of our new cooperative, and we look forward to our extremely bright future and our shared successes!
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