Cooperative Producers Inc: Growing Partnerships through Agriculture and a Commitment to the Community

Cooperative Producers Inc. (CPI) is one of Nebraska’ oldest agriculture cooperatives, but it is also one of the largest and fastest growing cooperative in the area. CPI’s mission is two fold. The company believes that growing partnerships in agriculture should always be balanced by ethical business practices to deliver value to both the coop’s owners and the communities it serves. As a result, CPI is known for both its sophisticated agronomy services as well as its community involvement.
 
“I have always said that agribusiness is one of the last industries where billions of dollars of transactions are still handled with a handshake. Our word is golden and we believe in only doing business with companies and members who share our values,” admits Bob Fifield, CEO. CPI currently operates from 33 locations across central Nebraska with over 77 million bushels of grain storage and a team of 500 talented professionals on hand to serve CPI’s 6,000 members. CPI is governed by a board of directors who are all stakeholders in the cooperative so every decision is made by representatives with a deeply vested interest in its continued success.
 
Today,  CPI’s 33 locations supply its members with a wide breadth of products and services to maximize its members acreage production. From grain storage facilities, fuels, fertilizer and equipment to grain marketing and seed treatments, CPI aims to stay ahead of market trends and provide its members with the most advanced technologies and supplies available from leading manufacturers. CPI’s feed selection represents the best available from leading manufacturers like Hubbard Feeds and Land O’Lakes Purina.
 
A Partner in Agribusiness
 
However, CPI’s mission goes beyond retail. A key component of CPI’s mission is to serve in an advisory capacity to its members by pooling resources to stay ahead of market trends and overcome shared obstacles. In recent years, technology has become a key component of CPI’s growth strategy across its operations. CPI has developed variable rate seeding, treatment and fertilizer application programs to help members maximize their acreage.
 
On one front, CPI has focused on developing and updating the cooperative website regularly to keep members informed. Advances in technology have made it easier and faster than ever to stay informed. Part of the process has been keeping tabs on relevant news and linking to the external content. CPI has also begun publishing seasonal newsletters targeted to the immediate audience of each of its 33 locations. The team has also developed a program that alerts members of market statistics periodically throughout the day through text messages.
 
In 2008, CPI also began using DTN MarketSpace, one of the first online grain marketplaces for agribusiness. The platform enables producers and agribusinesses to interact in real time, placing bids for sale and checking offers. Not only does the new platform enable CPI’s members to capitalize in market conditions, but the program provides a consolidated space to track every offer, bid, contract, delivery and transaction.
 
Currently, CPI is developing a new software package that will integrate external metrics and information and digest it to suit CPI’s membership. Essentially, the program will package the best elements from the industry’s leading software programs for CPI’s stakeholders. Though still in the early development stages, the CPI team ahs great hopes for the CPI 300 program. “We decided to call it the CPI 300 because our goal is help our members achieve 300 bushels of corn from every acre,” states Fifield. Though ambitious, the current record hovers around 160 bushels of corn per acre and was set in 2004, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Statistics Service, and a 300 bushel yield is imminent.
 
Flexibility for the Future
 
In fact, the sophistication of modern agribusiness has propelled the company to retool its operations to attract the talented professionals it needs. “Our biggest challenge in recent years has been the shortage of experienced professionals willing to work in rural Nebraska. To build that talent base we have begun doing things very differently to accommodate these professionals,” expands Fifield. In addition to offering competitive wage packages, CPI will offer flexible hours so employees with young children can find a better work-life balance.
 
Ultimately Fifield believes that the increased flexibility is another way in which CPI serves and strengthens its communities. “We strive to be the best stewards of our assets and part of protecting the future of our assets is protecting the communities and people we serve,” asserts Fifield. In addition, CPI launched the CPI Cares program in 2010 to consolidate its philanthropic efforts. The CPI Cares program combines contributions to non-profit community organizations like 4-H, donations to local facilities and equipment such as playground equipment or equipment for local fire departments as well as a CPI sponsored scholarship program.
 
In the coming years, Fifield expects to see CPI grow and continue to invest in the necessary infrastructure that can accommodate the growth of its members. The wheels are already in motion to build a new grain elevator and rail loop in Fairmont, Nebraska, which should be completed in time or the 2012 harvest. No matter the opportunity that provides the coop with an avenue for growth, Cooperative Producers Inc. is sure to uphold the shared values of its members and communities and grow partnerships through agriculture.