April 2015
Co-op Matters

AFC ... At the Top of Its Game

  AFC President Rivers Myres addressed the organization’s annual meeting in Montogmery.

CEO Myres presents his address at the 2015 Annual Meeting.

Bad weather has a way of ruining agricultural projections and that’s what happened during the first four months of 2014.

Continuous downpours kept growers from gaining a headstart on the year and, by the end of April, Alabama Farmers Cooperative’s projected numbers were 65 percent behind expectations.

"All that was needed was a few weeks of dry weather and all our divisions proved they were prepared," AFC President Rivers Myres said in his address at the organization’s annual meeting in Montgomery Feb. 25.

That preparation clicked in as dry weather arrived in May and it all came together to present a "window of opportunity," Myres said.

Alabama farmers took advantage of better growing conditions and, by midsummer, it was evident that those early projections were about to come true, he said.

"The momentum produced in May carried through July and allowed us to generate the second highest sales since 1936 at $583 million," he continued.

He followed with a report that 2014 was AFC’s second best year for profits as well as the second consecutive year for all divisions to record a profit. It all added up to a financial position for AFC to pay $10.7 million in patronage.

Those in attendance at the Renaissance Hotel got more good news when Myres mentioned that more than 70 percent of AFC members had a profit during the previous 5 years.

In 2010, members were $8.2 million over 90 days past due to AFC – a negative that became a positive by 2014 when "zero members" had past due reminders for 30 consecutive months.

More good news followed when a 5 year report showed net profits from operations had increased by fourfold between 2010 and 2014 – from $2.5 million to $10 million.

"The easy answer to explain our members’ success would be that the past several years have been good to our farmers and that has trickled down to our members," Myres said.

He said the "nice run" might be true, "but I’m here to tell you that it is much more than that. It is because our members – YOU – had the courage to make the difficult decisions to help you be successful in the future."

Myres listed several examples to support his report, saying locations that did not add business value were closed along with merger decisions "when it made economic sense."

He also said employee changes were made "even when it was not popular politically" while focus was directed on income from operations instead of relying on patronage to determine "whether you would be profitable."

While past performances and "bold decisions" have been made to keep AFC at the top of its game, Myres stressed the importance of encouraging "young people to join us at this wonderful company.

"We need the best young people," he said. "You hear every day that the new generation will not work. They will work. We need to instill in our young people that the ones who are dedicated and make the early sacrifices will be the people who manage the ones who do not."

Myres mentioned the completion of his first year at the helm of AFC operations as "our journey together," adding: "It has been rewarding in so many ways."

He also said this year’s theme of "Many Voices, One Vision" emphasized the fact that associates from bottom to top "have voices that define the success of AFC and, at the same time, maintain our unified vision – to be a relationship-driven partner integrating vital resources to insure our member/farmer’s success."

AFC Board Chairman Jimmy Newby praised the organization’s past year highlights as well as how it has faced "several difficult challenges" and responded to them.

"I want to thank all of our operations, management and employees for their good work this past year – all of our operations were profitable in 2014," Newby said.

He was particularly pleased with the effectiveness of the local Co-ops, saying they were in the best financial health "in my memory."

"That speaks volumes about the strength of our entire cooperative system," he added.

Newby mentioned the passing of two well-known AFC members – Jo John Williams of the Jackson Farmers Co-op and H.L. King of the Limestone Farmers Co-op.

"These men were devoted servants to agriculture and the cooperative model," Newby said. "Mr. Williams and Mr. King each served on the board of their local Co-op for over 50 years as well as having served as a director and honorary director for the Alabama Farmers Cooperative."

Newby ended his report by thanking the staff and employees "for their hard work and dedication to AFC – they are our most valuable asset."

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.