What is the future of ag cooperatives?

October 5, 2022
C.J. Blew, first vice chair of the CHS Board of Directors, discusses the future of cooperatives.

Agriculture continues to change at a lightning pace as new technologies and growing demand for food propel increased productivity. C.J. Blew, first vice chair of the CHS Board of Directors and a farmer and cooperative owner in central Kansas, says cooperatives are evolving to meet farmers’ needs today and in the future.

Providing advantages in a volatile market

As farm and ranching operations get larger, cooperatives must continue to invest in technology, infrastructure and talent to keep up with their customers. Like other ag suppliers, co-ops are trying to manage their downside risk as inflation drives prices higher. Blew says co-ops may have an advantage over other suppliers because they take a long-term approach to planning.

“Cooperatives have an advantage in this type of environment because we can leverage investments we’ve made on behalf of our owners. For example, CHS has invested in nitrogen manufacturing, which ensures members have reliable access to fertilizers and enables us to participate in the margin structure of manufacturing. We also have global relationships that increase our ability to source critical inputs and access new markets for exports. Our farmer-owners benefit from the incremental margins those relationships create,” he says.

Driving the future of cooperatives

Blew expects technology to thrive within the cooperative system as the industry evolves. “I see more technology coming into play, even as the human relationships will become increasingly important to help plan for future needs,” he says.

While more industry consolidation is possible as resource efficiency continues to be a top priority, Blew says there will always be an emphasis on supporting local communities, with money invested in the cooperative system returning to rural America.

Preserving agriculture’s legacy

Blew says it wasn’t until he got involved on the CHS Board of Directors that he fully understood the value and history of the cooperative system. His passion is to continue advocating for cooperatives so that future generations can take advantage of their benefits. “Farmer ownership in the marketplace is critical. I want the cooperative system to be there when my kids and grandkids take over our farm,” says Blew. “Farms and ranches are perpetual businesses, and we want to help support their success and legacy for the future.”