From the Manager's Desk
With spring just around the corner, your cooperative is gearing up for another one of our seasonal rushes…spring planting season. Not only will we see our total employee count peak for the year, but nearly every asset in the company will be in use. While many businesses have equipment and buildings that are in use all year long, our grain and agronomy divisions have millions of dollars invested in some assets that only get used for a few months out of the year. It is critical that these assets are fully operational and ready to go when the season starts. Our agronomy operations team has spent the winter months going through all the equipment to make sure it's in good working order, unwrapping and greasing up the new sprayers, trucks and other equipment we’ve purchased this year, updating technology and precision tools on existing equipment, and conducting hours of training on its use and safety.
In addition, the crop advisors and admin staff have been putting the finishing touches on crop plans and seed orders, wrapping up input financing and nutrient management plans, hiring and training new staff including college interns to help scout fields, and maybe taking a little time away to get rested for what is sure to be long days and short nights ahead. If you’re still looking to finalize plans for this planting season, please don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our highly trained crop advisors.
Gearing up for spring is not only about the equipment, but also the additional staff needed to provide the products and services our members rely on to help feed the world. Each year we try to fill about 100 full and part time positions at our eleven agronomy locations. These positions can last from six weeks up to eight months. Most seasonal positions involve delivering product to our members or directly to fields to keep our custom application machines running smoothly. If you or someone you know is interested in seasonal or year-round employment, please contact Shayla at our Mt Horeb office or stop by one of the agronomy locations. The hours can be flexible and available up to seven days a week. If agronomy work isn’t for you, ask about openings at any of our other locations including retail associates, plant operations, truck drivers, administrative professionals and more. Premier is always looking to add quality people to our team.
Thank you for your continued support of Premier Cooperative and its staff. Have a great month and stay safe!
March Energy News
So much for March coming in like a lion. I’m writing this late February and although we received a late February storm, the 10 day forecast looks like March is going to be coming in like a lamb instead. But that depends on your perspective. My lamb is another person’s lion.
Grain Update - March 2023
Another February down, and I don’t have many complaints about the weather. I had a lot of days outside working in a sweatshirt, and not too much snow overall.
As we are coming to the end of the spring crop insurance pricing period, it looks like corn will be at 5.95 and soybeans around 13.75. Last year’s prices were 5.90 and 14.33. In general prices were pretty stagnant until the end of the month. The next reports to watch for are the monthly WASDE on March 8th and planting intentions on March 31st.
The USDA held their annual Ag Outlook Forum, releasing some estimates for corn and soybeans. They expect 91.0 million planted acres of corn vs 88.6 last year, increased ending stocks and stocks/use %, and decreased avg farm price. Soybeans are estimated at 87.5 million planted acres, which is the same as last year. The other metrics are the same as corn – increased ending stocks, higher stocks/use %, and lower price as well. These figures are obviously subject to changes between now and planting and weather determining yields, but interesting to look at anyways.
Historically, spring is a great time to forward contract grain, especially for your upcoming crop. Give me a call at 608.634.3184 and we can look at breakeven projections, and have some goals in mind before the weather changes and you’re busy getting equipment ready and taking care of spring projects.
From the Manager's Desk
On January 18th Premier held its 130th annual meeting at WI Riverside Resort in Spring Green, WI. As part of the financial report, Premier CFO Andy Jones reported your cooperative had a very strong year with gross sales of $300 million, and after-tax earnings of $14.5 million for fiscal year 2022. While all divisions of Premier had double digit percent sales growth over the prior fiscal year, this year’s results were led by a very strong year within our ag divisions, with agronomy and feed leading the company in volume growth and bottom line performance. As a result of our fiscal 2022 year-end, Chairman Steve Burns announced at the meeting that Premier will be returning $5 million in cash back to our members in 2023. Premier had a record year in terms of sales, local net profits, and cash to be returned to our customers which is made possible with the trust and support of our members, the hard work and dedication of our employees, and the leadership and guidance of our board of directors.
February Energy News
Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! Don’t neglect to tell that special someone how much you appreciate them. Or don’t and be prepared to face the consequences. You have been warned, so put it in your calendar. This has been a public service announcement.
2023 Scholarship Winners
For many years premier has offered scholarships to graduating high school seniors that are planning to attend an Ag Short Course or any other 2+ year accredited degree program after high school.
In order to qualify, students must:
- Be a graduating high school senior in the class of 2023.
- Be the child of an active member of Premier Cooperative. Active members must have done over $1,500 of patronage business with Premier during fiscal year 2022.
- Student had to submit an essay on the role and importance of cooperatives in rural America.
January '23 Energy News
Welcome to 2023. Please keep your legs and arms inside the ride at all times. I wish you all good health and prosperity.
Will call propane customers, please call in your propane orders when the tank gauge reads 30%. This will allow us to get to all of our customers in an efficient, timely manner.
From the Manager's Desk
Happy New Year to each of you from the staff at Premier Cooperative and welcome to 2023. I hope everyone was able to take a break over the holidays and spend some much needed time with family and friends.
On January 18th we will be holding our 130th annual meeting of the members of Premier Cooperative. Reports from our CFO Andy Jones, board chairman Steve Burns, myself, as well as director election results and scholarship recipients will be part of the meeting.
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December Energy News
I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving and were able to get together with family. Now you will have another opportunity to overeat with more holidays coming up this month. It’s a first world struggle.
Soon you will see our propane trucks on the road or in your driveway more often, but you don’t have a chance to see things behind the scenes. It’s a very complicated business with a lot of moving parts. I’ll give you the Reader’s Digest condensed version of how this business works.
Hopefully everyone had a great Thanksgiving. For some it was a day off before another few days of harvest, as we are still taking grain at all of our locations. We are starting to wrap up harvest for the most part, so I just wanted to say thanks to all for turning to Premier for your grain needs this fall. We were glad to have decent weather. outside of a few stretches of snow/rain/cold.
From the Manager's Desk
As I mentioned last month, we held our audit in November and I’m very pleased to report that your cooperative had another solid year in 2022. In addition to the expected challenges we face each year, such as unpredictable weather and commodity markets, this past year we managed through strong inflationary pressure, continued labor challenges, and more. Despite growing challenges, and because of your continued support and the dedication of our employee team, we were able to overcome the challenges in fiscal 2022 and post a very solid performance. Premier will report our fiscal 2022 net income of $12.8 million and sales at $300 million will exceed previous records. Based on the strong 2022 results, and those of many prior years, we anticipate returning a record $5 million in cash back to our members in 2023. We look forward to sharing more about our 2022 year-end results at the annual meeting scheduled for January 18, 2023. On behalf of the employee team and board of directors, thank you for the tremendous support that has made this possible.
November Energy News
I hope you get the chance to get outside in November. By the time I write the next newsletter, we could see below zero temperatures. Or it could be 70 degrees outside. You just never know. You gotta love Wisconsin. If you don’t like the weather, wait a day.
From the Manager's Desk
By the time this update reaches you, we will have wrapped up the first month of our new fiscal year, turned the corner on this year’s corn and soybean harvest, have a good jump on replenishing the soil nutrients removed by the crop, had our first taste of winter weather (early October!), and seen retail stores update inventory for the changing season. Without proper planning for what lies ahead, it could be easy to get left behind.
October Energy News
September seemed like it was 10 days instead of 30 days long but we had some great weather to enjoy. I hope you took the time to start buttoning up your projects that you’ve started inside and outside of your home. I live in an old farmhouse and many of the outer walls have air between the interior and exterior walls instead of insulation. It’s not the greatest insulator but during the Great Depression when my house was built, the one thing everyone could afford was air.
From the Manager's Desk
As we move into the fall months, in a typical year we start to see the prices consumers pay at the pumps move lower from the peak driving season. However, in recent weeks gas prices have begun to climb again after dropping to $3.40 per gallon from their summer highs of nearly $5. If you live in or near Westby, Black Earth, Richland Center, or Mount Horeb, get a patron card at premiercooperative.com/cenex to get cash back for your purchases at any of our five Cenex gas stations. As a cooperative we return our profits to our members and using your patron card is how you get your share of these profits.
September Energy News
I hope you all had an enjoyable Labor Day. I’m writing this a few days before Labor Day and I’m planning on having several family members over for a cookout. I’ve got ten brothers and sisters so try to imagine if a few of them and their extended families show up. I’d call it controlled mayhem. The level of mayhem is directly proportional to the amount of sugary treats available to the kids.
From the Manager's Desk
Over the past month it looks like most all our trade area has received the timely rains and heat that is making this year’s crop look just about as good as we could have hoped for. While we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, it looks like we will have another very good harvest this year. Our team is busy emptying the bins and hauling out the last of the bumper crop we received at our facilities from the 2021 harvest, making a few final repairs, and staffing up to be ready for what we expect to be a great grain season. If you need help with handling or marketing your grain this fall, please give us a call.
From the Manager's Desk
Although some of our business units at Premier Cooperative such as livestock nutrition, auto & truck repair, and other retail outlets have a more consistent level of year-round sales volume, others such as agronomy, grain, and propane have greater periods of peak demand. As we move into the later part of summer, with the propane heating season and agronomy spring planting now in the rearview mirror, we start to see the light at the end of the tunnel for our fiscal year. While we continue to work through labor challenges, supply chain disruptions, inflationary pressure, geopolitical factors, and market volatility, your cooperative remains on pace to exceed total revenues and net income over the last fiscal year. We look forward to sharing the complete results following our September year-end.
August Energy News
Summer is winding down. I hope you all were able to take that vacation you were looking forward to or you were able make use of the nice weather to partake in cookouts and family gatherings. Enjoy it while you can.
From the Manager's Desk
I hope everyone had the chance to enjoy the Independence Day holiday with family and friends. With the holiday falling on Monday this year, most of us were able to enjoy a nice three-day holiday weekend. Thanks to all of you who called in your orders early so our staff could wrap up the week on time and enjoy the weekend and help minimize the added pressure that the short following week brings. I’d also like to thank all of you who returned your propane contracts by the end of June. With a short window of when contracts are mailed to when they are due back, we really appreciate your patience and support. If reading this reminded you that your contract is still sitting on the kitchen table, just pick up the phone and call the energy office nearest to you. I’m sure we’ll be able to take care of you. The last of the propane contracts (Cap renewals) and safety mailings will be sent out later this month. On behalf of our energy team and everyone at your cooperative, thank you for choosing us to serve your propane needs again this year.
July Energy News
I hope you were able to celebrate Independence Day with friends and family. I’ve had the opportunity to live in a few different countries and have visited several others. It is my opinion that the U.S.A. is still the best country in the world to live in.
June Energy News
June is going to be a busy month for your energy division. Farmers have been in the fields planting their crops so they can continue to feed the world. Our refined fuels staff have been delivering a lot of diesel over the last month to those farmers. Our propane folks have been busy delivering, trenching in propane lines and installing tanks while preparing propane contracts and safety mailings to send to our customers.
Propane contracts will be mailed the 10th of June and the due date is June 29th. Please be sure to mail them in as soon as you get them. Don’t let them gather dust in your inbox. Contract prices are of course higher this year but one gallon of propane is around half the price of a gallon of gasoline. Propane is still a bargain compared to other sources of heat.
Precision Ag Survey
Participate in a Study to Identify Major Barriers to Precision Agriculture Technology Adoption The Ohio State University Department of Food, Agricultural, and Biological Engineering (FABE) is looking for farmers, consultants, and other individuals who work alongside farmers to participate in a survey aimed at identifying major barriers that row crop farmers, consultants, and other personnel involved in crop production face when adopting precision agriculture technologies. Eligible participants must have row cropping operations in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Texas or preform consulting tasks or other tasks for famers who have row crop operations within the states stated above. Participants who are interested in participating are required to take the survey found with the link here: https://osu.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_201lPMuZxRSESge. You will have six weeks from April 25, 2022 to June 15, 2022 to respond to the survey. Completing the survey will constitute your consent to participate in the study.
With April behind us hopefully we can move on to some warmer weather and good planting conditions in May. I hope everyone has a safe and successful planting season. Here’s a few updates on how the markets have been recently.
- The market has continued its upward trend, with Dec 2022 corn adding roughly another 60 cents since the end of March, and November soybeans pushing up close to its highs as well.
- We crossed and have spent a handful of days above $7 new crop corn across all of our locations and have crossed $14.50 on new crop soybeans as well. Obviously we could see further strength but so far we’ve seen people taking advantage of some great selling opportunities early in the year.
- Similar to Dec 2022, we’ve seen the Dec 2023 corn contract on a tear, closing up 26 of the last 28 trading sessions as I write this.
Please check our website for bids and contact me during trading hours if you are interested in contracting for next year.
The next USDA reports we will be looking at are the May 12 WASDE and the weekly crop progress reports each Monday afternoon.
- So far we are showing the US slightly behind pace on corn and soybean planting, with the next few weeks’ progress being analyzed closely by the trade experts.
- The next acreage report is the end of June, but keep in mind that even if the cool wet spring persists nationwide, prevent plant acres aren’t addressed on that report.
- On the April WASDE, corn ending stocks were unchanged with an increase in exports offset by a decrease in feed. Soybean exports were raised by 25 million bushels bringing our ending stocks down to 260 million bushels.
From the Manager's Desk
While coming in a little later than the last couple of years, spring is finally beginning to make an appearance. As I write this the last week of April, we still have a couple nights of sub-freezing temperatures to deal with, but that doesn’t seem to be slowing down our agronomy locations that are now entering their busiest time of the year. Long days and short nights can be the norm this time of year for our agronomy division and our producer members as they work to get this year’s crop in the ground. This is a great reminder to please pay special attention over the next couple of months to farm machinery pulling in and out of the fields and wide loads coming around the next corner or over the next hill. Whether you are in your car on your way to work, or in the tractor moving to the next field, never assume the other person sees you. Slow down and be extra careful. If you have teenage drivers at home, please share this reminder with them as well.
May Energy News
Yay for May! It sure feels good to get outside without all of the heavy winter accoutrements. Tennis shoes and shorts will soon be the normal outerwear but I’m not sure if the world is ready to see my milky white legs just yet. In other news, this month my mother Doris will turn 93. But don’t tell anyone. That will be our little secret.
On March 31st the USDA gave us some surprising acreage numbers. They estimate 2022 corn planted acres at 89.5 million vs 93.4 mil last year and 92 mil estimated by trade experts. Soybeans are estimated at 91 million vs 87 last year and 89 mil estimated by trade experts. This has led to a solid 60+ cent rally in December corn and an initial drop in soybeans followed by a nice recovery to only about 50 cents off the November contract high. Then on April 8th we had a monthly WASDE (supply & demand) report, which was focused on grain stocks on hand, which was in line with expectations. We currently sit at a 1.44 billion bushel corn carryout and a 9.6% stocks/use ratio vs last year’s final number of 8.3%. We see almost identical figures as last year on soybeans of a 260 million bushel carryout (257 million last year) with a 5.8% stocks/use ratio (5.7% last year). However, one difference is at this time last year some were predicting a sub 150 mil soybean carryout. It did not come to fruition, but it did create a lot of concern with domestic users.
The market will be primarily trading any headlines surrounding the war in Ukraine, old crop export sales announcements, and U.S. weather in a few weeks. Planting delays are starting to be talked about, but keep in mind how quickly the U.S. farmer is able to plant the majority of their crop. Corn acreage at 89.5 million acres leads to a tight balance sheet and is generally supportive, but be sure to give Premier a call to take advantage of these solid price levels if it makes sense for your operation.
April Energy News
If you read last month’s newsletter, you’ll recall that I retired from the Army Reserve. This month will be my last newsletter as I have decided to retire from Premier Cooperative to follow my dream and open a new online business. I will be offering items for sale such as cat swimwear, turkey foot back scratchers and chicken goggles. April fools! You’re stuck with me for a few more years.
From the Manager's Desk
March was a busy month for your cooperative. While the propane division begins to wrap up and wind down another heating season, and the animal nutrition teams operate at a consistent pace year-round, the rest of the company is ramping up for their busiest time of the year. At our 11 full-service agronomy locations, they have been hard at work putting a winter’s worth of planning and preparation into action. The hundreds of hours of product, application, and safety training we attended across the company will soon be brought into play as we partner with our members to get this year’s crop in the ground. We look forward to welcoming back dozens of longtime seasonal staff, and even more new team members as we are just weeks away from the spring agronomy rush.
From the Manager's Desk
Happy New Year to all of you from the staff at Premier Cooperative and welcome to 2022. I hope everyone was able to slow down over the holidays and spend some much needed time with family and friends. It’s always a little chaotic scheduling and planning for shorter work weeks around the holidays, but also well worth the extra effort once everyone can relax and enjoy their time off.
October Grain Update
Harvest is here. As we are in another busy season, I will keep this short with a few policies and reminders. First, please ensure accuracy at the scale by having drivers check tickets for the correct customer name and disposition of the ticket. If sold at the scale, it will be marked with “Cash” and a price in the top right corner of the ticket. If being applied to a contract or stored, it will be marked with “ETD”, which means Extended Time to Decide. Extended Time to Decide allows you 7 days to choose what to do with your grain. Second, you have the option to defer payment until January 2022, but please let us know this before hauling. Third, all trucks or wagons used to haul treated seed should be completely cleaned out. One kernel can lead to problems for both parties. Last, please drive slowly and be safe around our grain plants. With extra people and vehicles moving around our facilities, additional caution goes a long way. Happy Harvest!
September Grain Update
I hope everyone had a great month of August and you are ready for the busy months ahead. Best of luck to all about to chop silage and those who are in the middle of chopping. I have a couple of reminders as we head into the grain harvest season. First, contact one of us today to get put on the list for each location’s harvest text updates. This includes hour changes, weather updates, and other location alerts sent out as needed. You can sign up by asking a grain staff member or on our website under the Grain Marketing tab. Second, keep in mind that Premier offers fall trucking out of the field. If your operation needs some extra hauling, please reach out and we will put together a plan.
This month’s WASDE report brought an unexpected reduction to 2021 crop yields, supporting the market. The USDA estimates corn yield at 174.6 bpa and soybeans at 50.0 bpa. 2021 corn carryouts are projected at 1.12 billion bushels and soybeans at 160 million bushels. 2022 carryouts sit at 1.24 billion and 155 million bushels. These current USDA numbers are keeping a supportive floor under our market, but as we discover how the crop looks both nationwide and for yourself personally in the next few months, be ready with an action plan in place for marketing your grain.
I hope everyone has had a great summer so far and have received enough timely rains to keep pushing this crop along. Although it is only August, your Premier grain team is working to be ready for harvest. Shipping grain, cleaning bins, equipment maintenance, and repairs are all being taken care of now. Fall will be here soon enough, and we will be prepared for the rush.
Prospective Planting Report
The USDA released the Prospective Plantings report today and put planted corn acres at 92.7 million and soybeans at 87.6 million acres. This came in below estimates and is very supportive to the corn and soybean markets.
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We are entering an exciting season in the grain markets. Today’s prices are providing some great contracting opportunities for your 2021 crop. We have seen many producers contract a portion of their new crop corn and soybeans on the way up throughout this rally, and I would encourage all to make a plan and set selling goals prior to harvest. Whether that is selling a portion of your production today or having targets in mind, it is typically better to have a plan and be prepared. As the weather and other factors impacting prices change, so can your plan.
Are We Entering Another Commodity Super-Cycle?
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What Causes Price Spikes?
In good old Midwestern fashion, February threw us a winter curve ball. Our nice and mild temperatures dropped drastically and had our furnaces running around the clock to catch up. Typically, winter brings a strain on propane supply as usage increases (that’s why we have you fill out your yearly contracts in the summer). What’s not so typical is for the entire United States to go through cold spells across the board.
Propane is created as a byproduct of refining processes. With Texas’ electric failure, nearly 2/3 of refining capabilities were cut off in the state at the same time as demand was high around the nation. As any economics teacher worth their salt would tell you, when you have less supply and more demand, price goes up. In this case we saw an impressive 50 cent swing almost overnight.
Your cooperative has so many options to keep you and and your family protected against these events. Keep up to date on our Facebook and Website pages to learn more this spring!
Important Grain Notice
Premier Cooperative participates in Wisconsin’s Agricultural Security program. If we fail to pay you for grain when payment is due, you may file a claim under this program. The program may provide some compensation. However, our “estimated default exposure” exceeds program coverage, and we have not filed security to cover the difference, so compensation may cover only a portion of your loss. For more information, you may contact the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, 2811 Agriculture Drive, Madison, 53708-8911 (phone 608/224-4998).
The Top 5 Reasons Major Bus Companies Implemented AutoGas
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- By switching from diesel to propane , companies were able to realize savings in the tens of thousands of dollars. Plus, propane markets are less volatile so you can lock in a price for the next 1-2 years and better manage cash flow. In the business of bussing, every dollar counts.
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- Based on customer provided data, converting to Propane Autogas pays for itself in 10-14 months.
USDA WASDE Report
Tuesday February 9th at 11:00 am is the release of the USDA WASDE (World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates) monthly report. The key numbers to watch in this report are the 2020/2021 ending stocks numbers, which are currently very tight. Corn ending stocks were projected to be 1.5 billion bushels in the January report and soybeans were projected to be 140 million bushels. Traders expect these carryout numbers to be reduced in the February report. If you’d like to discuss these report numbers and the price reaction after their release, please do not hesitate to reach out to Jory at our Westby location.
Gift Cards for Gallons
There is no better time to stock up on lubricants! For every 100 gallons of qualifying Cenex lubes or grease purchased between November 1 and February 28th can earn you a $50 VISA gift card.
Already purchased at least 100 gallons? I'll be reaching out to deliver the cards!
Market In the past few months, we have seen rising corn and soybean prices due to reductions in crop size and tightening carryout numbers. This has presented us with selling opportunities that we have not seen in 5-7 years. As we focus on marketing the 2020 crop, we would encourage you to also look at the 2021 crop. Using your own farm’s projected costs and historic/projected yield information, there may be profitable opportunities to forward contract a portion of your expected crop. The first step in this is calculating costs, which can be helped by a simple Excel spreadsheet template that Premier can send you to customize for yourself.
Contact Jory Bossuyt at our Westby location at 608-308-4889 or use the form below to send an email for more information. While we are not certain what prices will do going forward, if it makes sense for your operation to start forward contracting, we are happy to assist.
‘Tis the season for diesel contracting!
Diesel market volatility is one of the largest unknowns that producers and organizations face. The capture of a single oil tanker or an OPEC disagreement can cause massive price swings, leaving those of us in the Midwest reeling. If we learned anything last year, it’s that prices can change on a dime and leave us wondering what might come next.
Energy trends continue to be bullish as we head into a new administration and as vaccinations continue to roll out worldwide. Though we can never be absolutely certain, we are seeing indicators that price will continue to rise over historic lows seen last summer.
Your cooperative offers contracting options to help weather the uncertainty. Whether you are simply looking to lock in a price for your yearly gallons to build a better budget or wanting to hedge risk with piecemeal contracts in the hope of a summer price swing, we can help you find a solution best suited for your needs.
Contact me at the information below to learn more!
A Successful Year
We’ve almost reached the end of 2020. 2020 had a lot of challenges but Americans are resilient so most of us have found healthy ways to cope with our new realities. Here’s to hoping 2021 finds you healthy and prosperous.
Speaking of prosperous, if you read Andy’s Manager’s Desk article, most divisions had a solid year in 2020. The energy division also did well again this year, which will allow us to continue to invest in new trucks and other equipment and services in order to increase safety and efficiency.
The easiest way for us to increase our efficiency is through routing our deliveries properly. That is why we ask our will call customers to call in when they are around 30%. It gives us a chance to work the will call orders into our scheduled delivery orders for the greatest efficiency. If you call in to order your propane, please work with us to avoid delays or additional charges. For your safety and ours, please don’t create an emergency so that our employees have to enter your home to start your propane appliance after you’ve let yourself run out of propane.
From the Manager's Desk
As I mentioned last month, we held our audit in November and I’m very pleased to report that your cooperative had another solid year in 2020. In addition to the expected challenges we face each year, like unpredictable weather and commodity markets, this year was like no other as we navigated through the new challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the pandemic, and because of your continued support and the dedication of our employee team, we were able to overcome the challenges in fiscal 2020 and post very solid performance. With the exception of grain and convenience stores, all divisions reported increased performance. The grain division was hindered by the poor 2019 growing season and harvest while the convenience stores were impacted by reduced gallons and inside sales as businesses were closed and many employees started working from home. The feed division and Do it Best Hardware and Lumber, as well as ACE Hardware, each saw significant gains again this past year. Overall, your cooperative recorded its best bottom-line performance in its 127-year history. As a result of this performance, we’ll be returning nearly $4.6 million in patronage this spring with 60% (a record $2.7 million) being returned in cash. The cash returned this spring will represent 2% of the patronage-based purchases in 2019, up from 1.6% the past several years. Twenty years ago, in our 102nd year, your cooperative had nearly $26 million in sales, $13.6 million in total assets and about $7 million in member equity. Because of your support, in 2020 we’ve grown sales to about $190 million and reached $149 million in assets while returning almost $40 million in cash over the past 20 years, with $19 million of that in the past five years. Congratulations to all of you as the members/owners of one of the top performing farm and consumer supply cooperatives in the country. On behalf of the employee team and board of directors, thank you for the tremendous support that has made this possible.
Is it just me or does it seem like we went from summer to winter? I was a bit slow in making my cold weather gear accessible. I went bow hunting and I was pretty sure I was going to break off one of my toes when I pulled off my boots. I learned my lesson and my cold weather stuff is now within easy reach. By the way, no wildlife were harmed in the course of this experience.
Wow, what a difference a year makes! The fall harvest this year is a polar opposite to last year’s harvest. Soybean harvesting is nearly finished and the corn harvest is nearly 50% complete in Wisconsin as I write this. The corn moisture is low so that should cut crop drying expenses.
From the Manager's Desk
As we wrap up October, the first month of our 128th fiscal year, I’d like to thank all of you for helping make our 127th fiscal year a very solid one at your cooperative. Despite the pandemic, and in some cases because of it, sales for the year will be similar to last year at about $190 million. One thing about a pandemic, it can create a lot of volatility. In a commodity business, like many of our divisions are, volatility can offer both opportunities and misery. At your cooperative we were fortunate to capture many more opportunities than setbacks. For one, with the price of fuel down, our fleet of over 600 vehicles saved about $400,000 this year compared to 2019 in just the cost of gas and diesel. That goes right to the bottom line and increases patronage refunds to our members. Of course, the biggest challenge was figuring out how to provide the many products and services to our customers while keeping them and our employee team as safe as we can. This isn’t the first time your cooperative has had to deal with a global pandemic, but I was unable to find any of the meeting minutes from the board meetings in 1918 to help layout a roadmap for 2020/2021. I want to thank all our members and employees for the support they have shown one another as we’ve worked through these challenges together. I look forward to sharing the results of the audit with you in next month’s newsletter. Thank you for the tremendous support that allows us to continue to provide the quality people, products, equipment, and services you need for your farm, home, or business.
Winter is Coming
I hope you had a nice September. I was able to get away for a few days to Sturgis, SD. I have a friend who is the CEO of a cooperative there so I went to visit him. It was after the motorcycle rally so I missed the huge crowds. The morning I left there was about 3 inches of snow in Spearfish and I heard they got 10 inches in Deadwood.
The early snow reminded me that winter is coming. Now is a great time to ask your heating person to check out your furnace to make sure that it operates safely. While you’re at it, change your filter. If you have a standard filter, they should be replaced every 3 months. When you’re running your air conditioning, the air is going through your filter so it gets dirty even in the summer.
From the Manager's Desk
With harvest well underway in many parts of our trade area, our employee team is gearing up and ready to serve our members during the next two seasonal rushes your cooperative experiences each year—grain rush and propane heating season. Most of what I’ve read and heard recently has pointed to normal winter temperatures with above average precipitation. For those of you that call in your propane orders, please consider getting your tank filled well ahead of winter. For those on our keep fill program, thank you for allowing us to work your deliveries into our routes. Thank you all for choosing Premier to be your propane provider and making us one of the top 25 propane retailers in the United States.
Boost Your Fleet's Bottom Line With This Simple Change
With the unprecedented situation our world faces, we are all experiencing something new. While life has changed in many ways, the need to keep our organizations as efficient as possible remains.
More than anything, we’ve been given the gift of time. Time to look at our systems and procedures, time to reflect on what is making us more productive and what is doing just the opposite.
Change is Good
I hope you’ve been enjoying your summer. I spent almost 3 weeks training with the Army Reserve in late July and August. During our time at Ft. McCoy we were tasked with getting certified on the new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) so that we can test others in our unit and we also went to the rifle range to qualify using the Army’s new Marksman Qualification Test. I’m 58 years old. The word ‘new’ to me doesn’t necessarily trip my trigger (no pun intended). I’ve been doing the same physical fitness and marksmanship tests since 1983 and they’ve been working just fine for me, so why change?
I read through my last few newsletters. I feel I need to update you on the projects I’ve been doing on the farm. I’m happy to report that I won the Battle of the Bats. I installed a homemade bat extruder in early May and after watching the bat tornado outside my bedroom window the next morning it was obvious (that was creepy) the bats couldn’t figure out how to get back in. They won’t be missed.
My barn roof project didn’t go quite so well. After replacing the majority of the nails with screws and sealing the crown, I went into the haymow yesterday during a thunderstorm to check my work. It’s still a huge improvement but I still have some leaks. Fortunately I have enough buckets to catch the drips.
What did I learn from this? If you want a professional job done, hire a professional to do the work. Especially when it comes to propane. Today we were unable to install a propane system to a brand new house because the homeowner decided to do the gas piping himself. He used fittings that are not allowed to be used in a propane system, there were no drip legs on appliances and the shutoff valves were closed up inside of the drywall. We red tagged the system because we couldn’t safely hook it up. If the customer had hired a licensed plumber to install the gas piping, he wouldn’t have found himself in this predicament.
From the Manager's Desk
Our convenience store in Mt Horeb finished its first full month of operation in June since shutting down for over a month for renovations. Starting last fall, we added nearly 6,000 square feet to the west end of the building. The addition more than doubled the size of the convenience store, providing needed space to expand the kitchen, coolers and freezers, self-serve food and beverage choices, a future drive-thru window, and more. Our store was recently featured on the latest CHS (Cenex) marketing material promoting new programs for other Cenex locations to upgrade their facilities. Maybe that’s a sign we made some good design choices. I know the employee team is excited about the look and functionality. While the store was closed for remodeling, the outside pump islands, tanks, fuel lines, electrical, and concrete pads were all replaced. These changes will help ensure our fueling system meets or exceeds existing codes and will provide safe operations and added environmental protection for many years. On the backside of the addition, the auto/truck and tire center will have two new large truck service bays. If you’re in the area, please stop in and say hi to our coworkers.
From the Manager's Desk
I hope you enjoyed the Independence Day holiday with family and friends. With some staff members, including yours truly, taking a day or two off during the holiday week, it often leaves others picking up the slack to make sure we deliver on our promise to provide our members with excellent, hassle free service. Thanks to all of you who called in your orders early so our staff could wrap up the week on time Friday and enjoy the holiday weekend with family (and a limited number of aware, cautious, and socially distanced friends). I’d also like to thank all of you who returned your propane contracts by the end of June. It’s a crazy week when they are all coming in so quickly and we appreciate your patience and support. Thanks too for your understanding as we fielded more calls than usual due to the energy offices still having very limited access for face to face assistance with questions this year. Like all of you, we are very anxious to get back to in person contact as soon as we can ensure the safety of our members and staff. If reading this reminded you that your contract is still sitting on the kitchen table, just pick up the phone and call the energy office nearest to you. I’m sure we’ll be able to take care of you. The last of the propane contracts (Cap renewals) and safety mailings will be sent out later this month. On behalf of our energy team and everyone at your cooperative, thank you for choosing us to serve your propane needs again this year.
Energy Division Summer Projects
I hope you are enjoying your summer. It’s been an interesting one so far, hasn’t it? I’ve been spending a lot of my free time on my barn roof replacing old nails with new screws. I figured I’d better get at it because I swear it rains harder inside my barn than outside. I’m hoping to wrap up that project soon so I can move on to the next one.
2020-2021 Propane Contracts
I hope you all are finding reasons to get outside and enjoy yourselves. We saw some great weather this spring. It’s amazing how quickly our farmer patrons were able to get their seeds in the ground this year compared to last year. In talking to a few farmers, some of them had their planting completed this year before they even started planting last year. Great job.
From the Manager's Desk
Again, this year, I had the pleasure of stopping at several of our member’s farms, homes, and businesses to drop off equity redemption checks. While it was much different this year--appropriate distancing, meeting outdoors, and no handshakes—it was still very enjoyable. Part of the thrill was just driving somewhere other than the office and back home for the first time in nearly two months. The opportunity to stop and visit some members I’ve never had the chance to meet, or to catch up with some I haven’t seen in quite some time, was extra special this year given how long we’ve all been cooped up. Even more rewarding is handing them an unexpected check for the eligible redemption equity they have in the cooperative. Each of the members I had the pleasure of visiting this year seemed quite surprised to be receiving their old eligible redemption equity. Several commented that they never expected to see the equity returned.
Oil Crashes to Negative Values Due to Lockdowns
I hope this newsletter finds you all healthy. The world has changed a lot since the last newsletter. I’m writing this from my office but that may change. I may be writing it from home next time. Or the pandemic may be over. We have to remain flexible.
From the Manager's Desk
As we mentioned in last month’s newsletter, due to the coronavirus we were forced to postpone this year’s open house celebration. Despite this, we will be sending out this year’s patronage refund and eligible equity redemption checks later in May. Like last year, we are very pleased to be returning over $4 million in cash to our members again this year, at a time when so many need it. This past fiscal year (10/1/18-9/30/19) the minimum amount of purchases needed to qualify for a patronage check was about $930. If you purchased more than this but do not receive a check please reach out to Emily at our Mt Horeb office to be eligible for future distributions. It’s likely that we do not have the required information needed to issue patronage. The IRS requires us to report all patronage refunds we distribute by the recipient’s taxpayer identification number. This is usually a social security (for individuals) or federal ID number (for businesses). Thanks for the support that has made this patronage and equity redemption possible.
Save 1% on your purchases
Weekly ACH Program - I'd like to introduce you to our Weekly Autopay Discount Program. In order to incentivize automatic payments from our members, we have established the following discount program for customers who enroll their accounts in our weekly ACH autopay. Members may enroll their accounts in our weekly ACH autopay at any time. Accounts enrolled in ACH autopay will have their future purchases automatically debited to their bank accounts via ACH (often called e-check) on the Friday following the week of purchase (example below).