Farm Credit Services offices are open and business is being conducted at United FCS headquartered in Wausau and serving farmers in 12 surrounding counties. In late February, FCS offices in Wausau, Marshfield, Medford, Stevens Point, Anitgo, and Minocqua were closed for a half-day by the chairman of the United FCS board of directors.
"At a February board meeting, Minnesota members of the United FCS board passed a set of resolutions that amounted to what we believed was an illegal and hostile takeover of the Wisconsin region," explains Michael Copas chairman of the United FCS board of directors. "As a result of this action, we needed to close local offices to comply with terms of the resolutions. We got a temporary restraining order right away that ended the restrictions, so the offices were opened the next day."
United FCS serves about 1,800 farmers in north central Wisconsin, and it is known locally as Farm Credit Services of Minnesota Valley and FCS Financial Services. Since its inception, the two regions have shared some expenses, but have been controlled locally and independently. Both regions have separate staff, including a CEO, and each have representatives on the United board of directors. Copas, currently board chairman, is from Plainfield, Wis.
However, Minnesota Valley FCS has a majority of members on the United FCS board, which they used to grab control of FCS Financial Services, its capital and local Farm Credit operations, according to Tim McKim, spokesperson for the board.
"What happened is there are 12 Minnesota members on the board and only nine Wisconsin members," McKim explains. "Over the past several months they've had some disputes over control of the association. In early February, attorneys were trying to figure what this all means. The offices were closed for a half day because they couldn't write checks, approve loans or service their customers."
"This is a violation of the trust we thought we had with Minnesota Valley FCS," stressed Copas. "They've turned a merger of cooperation, trust and mutual respect that was United FCS into a contest for power and personal gain no matter the costs inflicted on others."
Since the end of February, the board of directors has been in mediation to resolve the dispute.
"There was a letter sent out to all stock holders that business would run as normal through this mediation process," Copas explained in mid-March. "We're looking to come to a resolution within 30 days, so by the end of March we hope to have at least a decision on what to do.
"Our goal has always been to take care of our customers in Wisconsin," Copas added.