How co-ops can adapt for the future

October 31, 2022
Jay Debertin, president and CEO of CHS, explains how cooperatives are adapting to meet agriculture’s evolving global needs.

Agriculture cooperatives, including CHS, have served farmers and ranchers for nearly a century. As the industry has evolved with new products, technologies and resources to increase productivity and efficiency, the foundational role of the cooperative has changed, too. Jay Debertin, president and CEO of CHS, describes how cooperatives will continue to adapt to meet the industry’s global needs.

Facing the future

Agriculture looks much different than it did 100 years ago. Auto-steer tractors have replaced horse-drawn plows, and small family farms have consolidated into larger operations. Those technologies deliver data and insights that are changing how farmers do business. Through all those changes, Debertin says the cooperative system’s purpose remains unchanged: “The idea of feeding the world will never go away. How we approach the business of agriculture is absolutely going to change, but the fundamental purpose of the cooperative endures.”

Debertin says that to remain relevant in the future, cooperatives must continue to adapt to owner and consumer demands, remaining forward-looking to capitalize on new market opportunities and focus on strategic investments. “At CHS, we have great hope for enduring the future because we’re agile and able to adapt our business as the market changes,” Debertin explains.

Taking a visionary approach

The most successful cooperatives adapt to today’s needs while keeping a pulse on emerging trends and market opportunities. As sustainable production gains momentum in agriculture, Debertin sees cooperatives becoming more influential in on-farm education and decision-making.

“Our role at CHS is to help our owners prepare for more sustainable production, and we’re well positioned to do that. Producers need to grow more food with less water and fertilizer. So, we’re working to bring tools and technologies to our owners to help them make production decisions that are sustainable but also profitable for their businesses,” says Debertin.

Driving change

Cooperatives like CHS continue to drive change in the agriculture industry by investing in the people, facilities and infrastructure needed to support future demands. “Our strategic investments are prioritized to ensure our owners’ success,” says Debertin. “We’re investing internationally to expand the markets for the crops and goods our customers grow. CHS is the largest cooperative in North America, and with that comes a responsibility to advocate for farmers. We take that responsibility seriously and want to ensure our owners have a voice in this industry,” explains Debertin.

Unwavering commitment

Why have co-ops remained integral to American agriculture for more than a century? Debertin says the cooperative system’s deep commitment to the industry doesn’t falter when times are challenging. “We’re committed to our owners, global customers and the markets we operate in. When times get tough, we take an approach that helps our customers,” says Debertin.

CHS continues to invest in its people and local communities, ultimately adding value for owners and customers, Debertin says. “When CHS does well, our profits return to rural America. We’re grateful to be part of this incredible industry, preserving and supporting the rich legacies of local rural communities.”