NDFU Has Concerns with CHS Governance

The North Dakota Farmers Union Board of Directors voted Tuesday to oppose proposed changes to CHS, Inc.’s articles of incorporation and bylaws. The changes will impact how the nation’s leading farmer-owned cooperative is governed, moving away from its producer-controlled roots.
“If these changes pass, non-farmer organizations and consumer cooperatives will be allowed membership and voting rights in CHS,” said North Dakota Farmers Union President Mark Watne. “This fundamentally changes the business structure of our regional cooperative, which has been wholly-owned by agricultural producer co-ops since inception.”
CHS, Inc. is a cooperative business owned by local agricultural cooperatives in communities across the region and by farmer members. It supplies co-ops with energy products under the Cenex brand as well as grain marketing services.
“It was the equity of farmers and ranchers who made this company the success it is today and a Fortune 100 company,” said Watne. “The success of this company is rooted in agriculture. To suggest that we need to change the governance structure is not logical. Farmers and ranchers will keep CHS strong and lead it to even greater success.”
Other proposed bylaw changes give the CHS, Inc. Board of Directors authority to define what an “active” member is without input from current members; and removes all connection to the Capper-Volstead Act, which allows farmers and ranchers to market their products collectively without being in violation of antitrust laws.
Member co-ops and producers will vote on the proposed changes on Dec. 3 at CHS, Inc.’s annual meeting in Minneapolis. Watne encouraged all affiliated cooperatives to have representatives there to cast a vote. He said leaders of the N.D. Cooperative Managers’ Association have already expressed opposition to the bylaw changes.
“This will be a significant vote from a financial and historical perspective,” he emphasized. “It has the power to change the future direction of CHS as a regional marketing and supply cooperative for Farmers Union affiliated cooperatives.”