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Serving: IN

Large Cooperative Pays Large Dividends to Members

Record pay-out comes in spite of economy.

One large, Indiana-based cooperative recently did what many county co-ops struggled to do even in better years- return healthy patronage in the form of both cash and stock to customers. Co-Alliance is actually a partnership which now includes five local cooperatives. Most of these local co-operatives are in themselves large entities, with some covering multiple counties, and a couple even extending into other states.

Kevin Still, who has led the business since the formation of Co-Alliance, announced earlier this year that a fifth member, Excel Co-op, located in north-central Indiana, would join Co-Alliance. Excel is made up of former county co-ops that banded together years ago. Excel Co-op officially became part of Co-Alliance March 1.

The other four members include Midland Co-op, Danville; Impact Co-op, Frankfort; LaPorte County Co-op, La Porte; and Frontier Co-op, Lebanon. Before becoming the leading executive of Co-Alliance, Still led Midland Co-op. It's one of the largest of the five partners, with business extending into Ohio. LaPorte County Co-op in northwest Indiana also spills over into Michigan.

Even though the news is filled hourly with layoffs and cutbacks, especially in the non-agricultural sector, Still felt privileged to announce good news when the group held it's joint annual meeting recently. The co-op business returned more than $5.3 million in cash and a total of $8.3 million, counting stock, back to members. In addition, almost $1 million will be redeemed in equity held by older members, Still reports.

The Co-Alliance policy is to return profit back to members, whom are local farmer-owners, after expenses are met, he notes. The patronage paid back to each customer in terms of both cash and equity in the business is in proportion to the amount of business the individual does with the local co-op during the preceding year. That's an original principle of co-operatives, which still works as long as the company turns a profit and there is cash to distribute.

Co-Alliance encompasses a number of ventures, Still notes. They include typical agronomic functions such as selling seed and fertilizer, plus providing swine and animal nutrition services. The cooperative also offers grain marketing services, has a tie to the crop insurance business through Top Land Crop Insurance, based in Seymour, and is also active in the fuel and home energy products market. The products and services provided vary somewhat upon the local partner, and the needs of the customers in the area they serve.

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