During the month of October, which is "Cooperative Month", we are taking a look at the role co-ops play in rural Nebraska. The CEO of Aurora Cooperative says his employees are constantly working on ways to bring more value to farmers.
"Vertical integration is one thing Aurora Cooperative has worked very hard on to accomplish," Aurora Cooperative CEO Chris Vincent said. "For example, we decided to take ownership in a 110 million gallon ethanol plant. This is to make sure we help sustain the ethanol industry, but also so that we create a destination market for our farmer-owners. That destination market is so important, because it directly drives the value of grain for farmers."
During the discussion on how cooperatives add value for farmers, Vincent mentioned how owning the ethanol plant helps bring jobs to a rural community. He also noted there are benefits from the by-products of the ethanol plant. "We are growing yellow number 2 corn, or in this instance, at this ethanol plant, we are also using Enogen as an alpha amylase source. That is a product from Syngenta," Vincent said. "That brings more revenue to the farmer-owner. And it's not just row crop farmers that are members and owners of Aurora Cooperative. You have cattle feeders, cow-calf operations, and so the products that come from the ethanol plant also create a nice opportunity with the wet distillers grains and those contracting opportunities."
Vincent says that cooperatives work to provide value to producers when it comes to research and development as well. "R & D is really important," Vincent said. "We have a company that we started back in 2004 called 'Real Farm Research'. We have a 65-acre farm called 'Owners Acres'. What we do there is we can make aggressive moves from an agricultural, agronomy perspective to improve yields."
By having the 'Owner Acres', Vincent says the co-op is doing the work for the producer. It's work he or she may not want to try on their own. "We look at this as our role in innovation," Vincent said. "For example, we can plant a 99-day hybrid and be aggressive, and see how it will yield, so the farmer can see how that might work on their farm. We can also take an aggressive stance with bio-stimulants, tissue sampling, and other things that producers might not want to try. We take the risk in the research."
Vincent says cooperatives continue to play an important role in Nebraska towns, and he says it's important to keep looking to the future in how more value can be delivered back to farmers. "I love being a Nebraskan, and it's exciting to be a part of a Nebraska cooperative," he said.