Courtesy of Valley Wide Cooperative
JEROME, Idaho — Members of Valley Wide Cooperative and Valley Cooperative have overwhelmingly endorsed a merger that managers say will increase their buying power and help them expand product and service offerings.
Valley Coop, which serves patrons from 10 Magic Valley locations, including farm and convenience stores and a propane store, hosted a June 30 election and breakfast, garnering support for the merger from 82 percent of members. Valley Wide Cooperative, which serves patrons at 34 locations from Western Wyoming to Eastern Oregon, received support from 97 percent of members who mailed in ballots, which were tabulated on June 4.
Senior staff members hosted their first meeting since the elections on July 6 and are now commencing with details of the merger, such as integrating their computer systems.
The new entity, scheduled to start business on Sept. 1, will be based in Jerome and operate as Valley Wide Cooperative, with more than 700 employees serving more than 3,000 members.
Richard Lloyd, general manager with Valley Wide’s agronomics division, said soon after the merger takes effect, the new cooperative intends to expand certain operations in Idaho’s Magic Valley and Treasure Valley. Lloyd said the cooperatives have partnered on agronomics, including farm chemical and fertilizer sales, for several years and enjoyed a considerable savings due to their increased buying power.
Lloyd said farm chemical and fertilizer savings have been greater than a couple of percentage points due to the partnership and “we now expect to see similar savings on farm retail, refined fuels and propane.”
Lloyd said both companies use the same software for their farm stores but are evaluating which of their operating systems would work best for their energy division.
Lloyd doesn’t envision any reductions in staff. In the long run, he believes more staff will be needed to accommodate planned expansions.
“I would say there will be a spot for everyone,” Lloyd said. “This merger isn’t about fewer people and cost savings as far as reducing staff. This merger is about expanding the business.”
Lloyd said the cooperatives are in the process of finding “the right fit for everyone.”
Cortney Beck, manager of Valley Wide’s Rexburg agronomy center, believes the merger will spread business over a broader geography in case one region experiences down times. He expects greater stability in the farm store market — an area in which he believes Valley Cooperative shines — and access to new products and suppliers.
Valley Wide marketing manager Eric Holbrook said the cooperatives also provide growers with expert crop advisers, satellite imagery to monitor fields and livestock feed. Members must pay a small, one-time processing fee, maintain a minimum acreage and make a minimum in purchases from the cooperative. Both cooperatives have roots in Idaho dating back to the 1930s.
Aaron Johnson an agri-business faculty member with University of Idaho who specializes in cooperatives, said successful mergers require a great deal of face-to-face communication with members and staff.
“I would revisit every operational procedure and every policy and make sure I have everything on the same page and all of my employees and managers on the same page,” Johnson said.