AFC President and CEO Rivers Myres recaps a year of transition and casts a vision for future growth.
For Alabama Farmers Cooperative Inc., its members and leaders, 2016 was a year marked by change. After an encouraging keynote address on just that topic, AFC President and CEO Rivers Myres took the stage at AFC’s 80th annual meeting in Montgomery, Feb. 22. Continuing the theme established by opening speaker Nate Booth, Myres recapped a transformative year and cast a vision for AFC’s progress through an uncertain near future.
"AFC’s willingness to embrace change over the past 80 years has been a fundamental key to our growth and success," Myres shared. "Our readiness to change and reinvent ourselves has been instilled in our culture."
Having just returned from the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives’ annual meeting, Myres described the current atmosphere of change as widespread, due, in large part, to the arrival of a new administration in Washington. He reassured members, however, that agriculture is positioned well politically as the time approaches to draft the next Farm Bill.
Myres transitioned to brief summaries of the progress of AFC’s divisions in 2016, highlighting the changes taking place throughout the organization.
"The fantastic grain storage facility we built in Florence resulted in a record amount of grain handled by AFC," he explained. "It made for a challenging year for our Grain Division, but I am excited about where we are headed."
With 26 million bushels passing through the facility, Grain experienced its fourth best year ever in terms of volume.
On the heels of the SouthFresh Aquaculture’s sixth consecutive year of profitability, Myres predicted that division would experience another successful year in 2017. The addition of a new storage freezer and upgrades at the Eutaw processing plant will help increase efficiency and decrease costs, he said.
Calling the Feed, Farm and Home Division’s reorganized warehouse in Decatur "amazing," Myres commended Eddie Roberts, division vice president, on the reorganization and inventory control updates made during the past year.
Likewise, Myres recognized Ron Bailey, vice president of Frank Currie Gin, for leading that division through another strong year, marked by gin improvements and increased customer cotton acreage.
"We’ve simply got the best gin manager in the business," Myres said.
Agri-AFC’s 2016 earnings contributed heavily to patronage AFC was able to pay this year, Myres reported. By continuing to streamline operations and improve efficiency, the division produces benefits for all AFC members.
Finally, Myres noted that perhaps the biggest change AFC underwent in 2016 was the establishment of the partnership between Bonnie Plants and ScottsMiracle-Gro.
"There is no substitute for a great start in farming," Myres said. "And we’re off to a great start in this partnership with ScottsMiracle-Gro."
Myres added that the leadership of SMG communicated their shared confidence in the relationship and amazement at what has been accomplished in a short period of time so far.
In 2016, Bonnie experienced record sales of $258 million. The new partnership also allowed AFC to retire 19 years of equity, a total of $40 million, that was passed on to cooperative members.
After Myres’ remarks, brief videos featuring each of the division heads gave attendees a look inside the various operations and details on earnings and events of the past year.
AFC Secretary-Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer Tricia Arnold echoed Myres’ positive outlook for the future of AFC in her financial report. With a slight increase in total sales, from $541.7 million in 2015 to $542.4 million in 2016, AFC enjoyed the third highest sales year in the cooperative’s history.
In all, 2016 ranked in the top ten most profitable.
"We truly strive to meet and exceed our members’ expectations on a daily basis," Arnold said, referring to AFC’s Customer Service Creed.
Before introducing the cooperative’s senior leadership, who answered a variety of questions submitted by members via video, Myres repeated sentiments voiced earlier in the business meeting by AFC board member Bill Sanders and Chairman Mike Tate. While much of the change that happened in 2016 was positive, Myres acknowledged the pain felt at the loss of a number of AFC members and leaders during 2016.
"Change can be gut-wrenching," he said, mentioning that, in particular, the loss of AFC Board Member Ted Tindal in December was one such loss.
"Ted was never self-serving," Myres added. "It will be extremely difficult to fill his place. He is certainly missed."
Board members Sam Givhan, Ben Haynes, Bill Sanders and Mike Tate, all of whose terms expired this year, were nominated for re-election and re-appointed by acclamation. The 81st annual meeting was set for Feb. 20-22, 2018.