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Annual Member Meeting

Full House Attends 2017 Wheat Growers Annual Meeting

(January 16, 2017; Aberdeen, S.D.)  A full house turned out for the 2017 Annual Meeting of Members held at the Wheat Growers Innovation Center Thursday, Jan. 12, in Bath.

A majority of attendees who returned surveys gave the Innovation Center high marks for location and quality of the facility. A majority of attendees also gave high marks to the quality of the information shared in the presentations. In addition, several members said they liked the format for the meeting, which was held in the afternoon following the Annual Meeting of Delegates that took place in the morning. (The two annual meetings overlapped with a shared lunch.)

The Annual Meeting of Members included presentations by Board President Hal Clemensen, CEO Dale Locken and CFO Blake Bomesberger. A Leadership Team panel answered questions from members and was followed by a live survey of members conducted by new Wheat Growers Communications Director Greg Smith. The live survey covered several questions related to on-farm production, succession, grain marketing, agronomy decisions, precision agriculture plans and membership satisfaction.

Click below to read a recap of each section and view video footage from the 2017 Annual Meeting.

Wheat Growers Board President Hal Clemensen opened the Annual Meeting of Members with a welcome followed by an invocation given by Director Glen Crawford, Aberdeen. Clemensen then called the meeting to order and shared a board perspective on the 2016 production year.

“As we all know, last year the agriculture economy was as challenging as ever, which was a harsh reality coming off the previous year’s successes,” said Clemensen. “But thanks to the strong leadership and insight of the Board and the hard work of the entire Wheat Growers organization, we generated positive earnings.”

Highlights of the year noted in Clemensen’s speech included opening of the Innovation Center; completion and opening of the Kennebec shuttle loader, fertilizer terminal and agronomy center; formation of the Consolidated Ag Solutions Cooperative with Landus and CVA Cooperatives to achieve joint savings and efficiencies; the Wheat Growers joint venture with Norway Spur called James Valley Grain; a successful year by DakotaLand Feeds, which is co-owned by North Central and Land O’Lakes; and continued agriculture industry advocacy by Wheat Growers board members at both the state and national levels.

Clemensen also provided a recap of board activities throughout the year, most notably an initiative to modernize the Wheat Growers Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws, and update the director and delegate districts. Clemensen concluded his comments by honoring departing board member Tom Morog, St. Lawrence, who has served the board for eight years and chose to finish his service to the Wheat Growers board.

Clemensen then announced voting results. The vote on the resolution to adopt the proposed restatement of the Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws of South Dakota Wheat Growers passed, 653 yes votes to 129 no votes for a total of 782 votes counted. The vote for directors and delegates elected the following:

District 1
Director: Glen Crawford
Delegates: Gaylon Anderson, Drew Courtney and Colin Dutenhoffer
District 2
Director: Wally Knock
Delegates: Keith Lambert, Steve Masat and Jason Pazour
District 3
Director: Jeff Lakner
Delegates: Matt Micheel, Bob Moody and Mike Puffer
District 4
Director: Steve Halverson
Delegates: Doug Halverson, Brian Kraus and Nick Nemec
District 5
Director: Ken Rau
Delegates: Charles Hettich, Toby Keller and Andy Weisser

Following the announcement of election results, Wheat Growers CEO Dale Locken opened his comments by speaking about the safety record that Wheat Growers has achieved. He highlighted continued efforts in 2016 to enhance the safety culture at Wheat Growers, and showcased the national recognition Wheat Growers received from Environmental Health and Safety Magazine. The magazine named Wheat Growers as one of the nation’s safest companies and the first agriculture organization to ever receive that honor.

Locken then spoke about the never ending importance of developing talent with Wheat Growers. “We know the key to thriving for years to come is based on having the best people working here,” Locken said.
Noting that 40 current full-time employees started at Wheat Growers as interns, Locken pointed to training and development initiatives and said, “We have a tremendous group of talented professionals who will come behind those of us who won’t be here in the next few years. They are gaining the necessary experience and exposure to provide progressive leadership for Wheat Growers.”

Locken also spoke about efforts to achieve best-in-class customer service for Wheat Growers members, and then addressed the financial challenges facing the entire agriculture industry in the U.S. “In the last 10 years alone, the number of new acres of farmland in the world has grown by an amount equal to two entire U.S. corn crops,” he said.

Locken concluded by noting efficiency efforts that are responsible for significant expense reductions at Wheat Growers. He also gave a nod to the increasing role precision agriculture will play in optimizing yields and the recognition received by Wheat Growers Precision Ag Manager Brent Wiesenburger in PrecisionAg Magazine as one of the top 10 people in Precision Ag in the country.

Locken concluded, “We have a strong team. We have the best customers in the industry. And we have a strong plan to support your success.”

Wheat Growers Chief Financial Officer Blake Bomesberger presented financial highlights from the 2016 production year. Bomesberger reported the results of the financial statement audit, reviewed 2016 earnings and commented on the strong balance sheet achieved at the end of FY2016.

Bomesberger noted that 87 percent of Wheat Growers assets are newer than 10 years, giving Wheat Growers efficient facilities and capacity to handle additional volume. He also pointed to reductions in discretionary expenses and efforts to enhance Wheat Growers’ access to capital as key moves that will support members’ production efforts in 2017.

The final portion of Bomesberger’s presentation highlighted patronage moves in 2016 aimed at maximizing the value returned to patrons at year-end.

The Leadership Team panel of John Husk, senior vice president of operations, Judy Stulken, senior vice president of human resources and organizational development, Roger Krueger, senior vice president of grain, and Chris Pearson, chief operating officer, addressed questions from the attending members.

Several questions were submitted regarding the planned AGP soybean processing facility. Other submitted topics ranged from rail freight issues, outlook for improving basis on grain, grain marketing dynamics, the perception that the Aberdeen office has too many admin workers, progress on managing grain bags and piles, plans to address the future expiration of condo-storage contracts in Mellette, and whether Wheat Growers would consider unification, either with NCFE or other co-ops. (For a detailed recap of the Leadership Team Q&A, check the Wheat Growers web site later this week.)

The Annual Meeting of Members concluded about 15 minutes ahead of time, which allowed plenty of time for attending members to tour the Innovation Center facilities.