Following actions by Minnesota members of the United FCS board of directors, FCS Financial Services offices in central Wisconsin are closed as of Tuesday afternoon.
"At its most recent board meeting, Minnesota members of the United FCS board passed a set of resolutions that amount to what we believe is 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."
United FCS serves nearly 6,000 farmers in Minnesota and Wisconsin including about 2,500 in north central Wisconsin, and it is known locally as Farm Credit Services of Minnesota Valley and FCS Financial Services. The north central Wisconsin FCS is headquartered in Wausau and serves 12 surrounding counties.
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.
"What happened is there are 12 Minnesota members on the board and only nine Wisconsin members," explains Tim McKim, spokesperson for the board. "Over the past several months they've had some disputes over control of the association. During the last couple of weeks, attorneys have been trying to hash it out and see what this all means. This afternoon, they voted to close the offices in north central Wisconsin because the association in Wisconsin can't write checks, can't approve loans, and can't service their customers."
Copas says a petition calling for an emergency stockholder meeting has been drafted and circulated to Wisconsin Farm Credit members. He also has encouraged members to contact their United States congressional representatives, the Farm Credit Administration and those in power at Minnesota Valley FCS to express their concerns over this action.
"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."
McKim says nobody knows how long the affected FCS offices will be closed.