The recent debate in Congress over Section 199 has refocused interest on cooperatives.
While the issue is complex, it boils down to this: A change made during drafting and passing tax reform legislation erased a key provision that benefited co-ops and their customers financially. When Congress tried to fix it by giving co-ops and co-op members a different kind of tax break, unintended consequences penalized farmers not in co-ops. In March, Congress acted again in another attempt to set things right, and protect co-ops without penalizing farmers who don’t do business with co-ops.
It appears Congress has righted the ship, at least for now.
While this debate went on in Washington, a modern co-op that serves a large marketing area in central and southern Indiana prepared to move into a new headquarters building. Premier Cos. opened the two-story office building in Seymour, Ind., in February. Mark Canary, vice president of crop protection and seed, says the new office brings managers and many staff members of various divisions within the co-op together under one roof. Before, the different divisions were housed at different locations.
“There is an advantage to seeing the people you work with every day,” Canary says. “It allows us more opportunities to bounce ideas off each other and work together.
At one time, county Farm Bureau co-ops covered much of Indiana. As the business climate changed, many began consolidating and covering larger marketing areas. A few successful single-county or two-county co-ops remain. However, a few large co-ops that no longer use the co-op name provide a variety of services across Indiana, and sometimes into neighboring states.
Co-Alliance LLP is a large, multicounty co-op based in Avon, Ind. It’s made up of five member co-ops, some of which were already multicounty co-ops when the latest merger occurred.
Ceres Solutions Cooperative covers many counties in western, north-central and northern Indiana. It’s a recent merger of Ceres Solutions and North-Central Co-op, and spills into Michigan.
Harvest Land Co-op, based in Richmond, Ind., covers many counties in eastern Indiana and western Ohio.
Premier Cos. consists of Premier Ag and Premier Energy. It formed when Premier Co-op, formed earlier by a merger of several county co-ops, merged with Jackson-Jennings Co-op, which served a large marketing area in southern Indiana. Today, Premier has branch locations in 13 communities, ranging from Franklin and Greensburg, Ind., to Corydon, Ind., and Harrison, Ohio.
Past, present and future
Harold Cooper, chief executive officer of Premier Cos., made sure the new office building included two things: reminders of the co-op’s past and modern working space with plenty of conference rooms to allow collaboration in the future.
“We can bring customers in for a meeting and do multimedia presentations,” Canary says. “There are also smaller rooms where a few of us can gather to work together.”
The lobby features a restored truck like those used to deliver fuel in the 1930s and a mural that depicts the past, present and future for both agriculture and Premier.
Check out the slideshow to see pictures of these features.