Meetings, vote dates set; strength as one cited.
By Amy Bickel - The Hutchinson News - email@example.com
Leaders with Nickerson's Farmers Co-op and Farmers Co-op Union of Sterling are working on a potential merger, with members from both cooperatives to vote on the plan next month.
Joe Schauf, general manager at Nickerson, said Nickerson members will vote Sept. 9 and Sterling members on Sept. 10. Informational meetings are planned earlier in the month at Nickerson, Lyons and Bushton.
The merger requires a two-thirds vote by both cooperatives. If approved, the new cooperative would be Central Prairie Co-op.
Schauf said the two boards have talked about merging for a while, but the perfect opportunity to move forward came when Sterling's general manager, Rich Fisher, announced he would retire next May.
Nickerson's board president, Orville Miller, said both elevators groups are trying to look toward the future.
"We're both healthy co-ops," he said. "But we both know we need more size to complete and serve the larger farmers. We both think we can get some synergy by combining our assets and working on a larger basis - better purchasing power."
Schauf also said the move would help spread the risk out, such as impact of a hailstorm or something else, over a larger territory.
Nickerson has four elevator locations with a 2.3 million bushel capacity and an agronomy center. Sterling has 11 locations with 8.5 million capacity and two agronomy centers, Schauf said.
"We line up very well with them," he said. "Both companies have some of the same business philosophies, and I think it would be a good fit."
Federal accounting rules changed in 2009, Schauf said, which means that in a merger, there has to be an acquirer and acquiree. On the accounting side, Sterling is the acquirer, but on the legal side, Sterling would merge into Nickerson co-op.
If approved, Sterling members would become part of the Team Marketing Alliance, which already provides merchandising, logistics and accounting for Nickerson and three other cooperatives.
The merger could take place as soon as March, with Schauf becoming general manager. Main offices would be in Sterling.
Miller said there have been a few people who have had concerns, including those not wanting the cooperative to become too big.
Area farmer Bruce Carey, who was trying to work ground around mud holes Wednesday, said he was in favor of the merger. He is a member of both cooperatives.
"I think there is a lot of cost-cutting that could be had," he said of the positives. "They can buy stuff in larger quantities.
"It has to happen, or five or 10 years down the road, we'll wish we had it."
Farmers Coop Union based in Sterling and Farmers Coop of Nickerson will hold a vote on a merger of the two cooperatives, becoming Central Prairie Co-op. Nickerson members will vote 7 p.m. Sept. 9 at Nickerson High School auditorium. Sterling members will vote 7 p.m. Sept. 10 at Lyons, Celebration Center.
Informational meetings regarding the merger are: 7 p.m. Sept. 3 at Nickerson High School; 7 p.m. Sept. 4 at the Lyons Celebration Center; and 7 p.m. Sept. 5 at the Bushton Community Center.