Farmers Union Cooperative: Providing Local Farmers with Agricultural Expertise

For over 100 years, the Farmers Union Cooperative (FUC) has been helping Iowan farmers make the most of their resources. The cooperative operates from its headquarters in Ossian, Iowa, with additional locations in Fort Atkinson, Calmar, Waucoma and West Union to supply farms across northeast Iowa with essential supplies, services and expertise. Today, FUC employees take pride in helping each customer thrive and expand by monitoring global and national market trends, while also maximizing their production by overcoming common challenges. The cooperative offers members agricultural products and services as well as marketing services for one-stop shopping.
 
“We’re a strong cooperative with dedicated employees and customers that are loyal to us because we go the extra mile to meet their needs,” asserts David Hemesath, general manager of FUC. The cooperative was formed in 2009 through a merger of two strong local cooperatives -- Union Produce Cooperative in Ossian and Farmers Cooperative Produce Co. in Fort Atkinson -- but has shared history dating back to 1912. This past year was the most successful year in the cooperatives’ combined 100-year history, with record sales and profits attained. With that kind of longevity and financial strength, it’s no surprise that local farmers in northeast Iowa continue to call upon the local cooperative for more than just competitively priced products and services. Between all of its locations, the cooperative provides regional agribusinesses with grain marketing services, automotive repair, bulk fueling, oil and grease, feed, seed, plant food and crop protection products from industry leading manufacturers.
 
The cooperative was created for the benefit of the local farming community and is overseen by a board of directors, members of which are all involved in local agribusiness. As a cooperative, any profits generated are returned to its members in the form of patronage refunds. In turn, FUC serves as an industry resource working in the local agricultural community’s best interests. The cooperative’s team is capable of developing custom application programs for fertilizer and pesticide applications that deliver proven results. FUC operates a fertilizer blending plant in Ossian and Fort Atkinson, where the cooperative’s staff provides a custom formulation to maximize yields and profitability.
 
One-stop Shop
 
In addition, the cooperative operates a complete feed mill in West Union and Ossian, Iowa, with standard and custom product offerings. FUC can grind, mix and bag the right formulation for beef, swine, dairy, sheep and poultry. The cooperative employs specialists in pork, dairy and livestock production to consult customers on the right product mix from its selection of U.S. Feeds, Land O Lakes and Purina, or recommend a custom solution if necessary.
 
The agronomy staff operates seven liquid applicators and three dry applicators, along with having numerous dry and liquid units for farmer use. At the Ossian location, FUC has NH3 nitrogen available for spring or fall application. The cooperative custom hired three helicopters to spray fungicides and other crop protection products throughout the summer. The agronomy staff also operates two seed performance test plots. Once harvest is complete, agronomy personnel will make the test plot yields available to interested members
 
FUC’s Calmar location is a Cenex Pump 24 fuel station. The cooperative employs three professional automotive technicians to tackle any automotive repair and many equipment repairs. The location is a Napa Auto Center and is fully equipped to check for leaks, recharge and repair state-of-the-art air conditioning units in both automotive vehicles and agricultural equipment. The cooperative’s staff can rotate, repair, balance and replace most tires, tackle break systems, flush transmission systems and fill bulk lubricant orders.
 
The cooperative’s energy personnel can fill orders for premium Cenex products including: lubricants, gasohol, kerosene, farm diesel, roadmaster diesel, fuel oil and regular gas. The cooperative also offers customers the option to buy or lease 500 and 1,000 gallon tanks, which enable members to purchase in bulk and to have access to an environmentally friendly and modern fuel storage facility.
 
In addition, FUC operates grain facilities in Ossian, Fort Atkinson and Waucoma, with a combined storage capacity of 5.0 million bushels. The cooperative also has the drying capacity to custom dry over 10,000 bushels of corn per hour.
 
Rising to Every Challenge
 
As a member of the agricultural community, FUC takes pride in working with clients to stay ahead of market trends and overcome financial hurdles. The grain staff is capable of arranging the purchase and hedge-to-arrive contracts for corn and bean producers in the region with multiple delivery locations. As a result, cooperative members can benefit from better basis opportunities, resulting from a collective pool of volume.
 
“Commodity prices are not only climbing, but they are becoming increasingly volatile so we strive to keep our membership informed,” explains Hemesath. Through the cooperative’s newsletter, members can stay informed of grain price trends and changes in cooperative policy.
 
 In lieu of volatile grain prices and increasingly limited livestock margins, FUC has developed a stricter payment policy to protect the collective interests of the cooperative and ensure its ability to provide quality products and services in the future.
 
Though no plans have been set in stone to mark the cooperative’s 100-year anniversary, the FUC team looks forward to continuing its mission of helping local agribusiness owners maximize resources and overcome industry challenges. Having not only survived, but thrived through all economic climates, the Farmers Union Cooperative is sure to be the go-to resource for northeast Iowan farmers for many years to come.