Community is Key for 100 Year-Old Association

The Cooperative Farmers Elevator is a shining example of resilience. CFE provides reliability for its customers and demonstrates continuous strength within its leadership, while showcasing its extreme durability—withstanding economic and social changes that naturally occur during a long tenure in business.

CFE was established in 2015 by merging the Cooperative Elevator Association, Farmers Elevator Cooperative and United Farmers Cooperative. However, each of those entities was created more than 100 years ago—with the earliest taking root in 1899—making CFE nearly 125 years old.

Today, CFE is a progressive, farmer-owned cooperative, serving local farmers and rural business owners in agronomy, feed, grain and lumber. CFE has locations in 25 communities throughout Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota.

CFE is an important pillar for the communities it serves. The co-op provides service to approximately 3,300 members, and because it is member-owned, it is imperative that it continuously meets the needs of its customers. CFE also provides hundreds of jobs, making it the largest employer in many of its communities. This dynamic creates a crucial, symbiotic relationship for the members, employees and CFE to build and maintain strong economies.

“Everything is centered on the member, while also keeping our employees top-of-mind,” said Rob Jacobs, CFE’s CEO. “It’s vital we reinvest back into the company to ensure we are around for the next 125 years. It’s also important that we employ outstanding people—they are the heartbeat of what we do.”

Supply chain issues leading to shortages, inflation and higher capital demands have made it difficult for almost every business, but CFE believes that each challenge also brings opportunities.

In December of 2021, CFE requested CoBank increase their operating debt due to increasing commodity prices and expected delays in sales deliveries. CoBank increased the line of credit by late December, allowing CFE to continue to provide its patrons uninterrupted ability to sell grain in a volatile market.

“If you execute well and are aware of what is happening, you can take these challenges and turn them into experiences to grow. It takes collaboration among trusted partners and staff, but it’s possible you might come out stronger,” Jacobs said.

CoBank and CFE have built a strong relationship, creating open communication and opportunities to share knowledge and execute business plans efficiently. Currently, CoBank finances an operating line of credit and term financing for CFE.

CFE recognizes the importance of partnering with a lender that understands the agricultural business, and appreciates that CoBank and Farm Credit Leasing can act quickly in the face of a potential problem. CoBank and CFE have created a longstanding relationship with mutual trust, which will continue to flourish for many years to come.

This story was originally published in the CoBank 2022 Annual Report.