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COOPERATIVES CRITICAL TO FUTURE OF FAMILY FARMS

 COOPERATIVES CRITICAL TO FUTURE OF FAMILY FARMS
 MINNEAPOLIS, Feb. 26 /PRNewswire/ -- "Cooperatives will be essential


to the survival of the 21st century family farm because they will meet the critical needs of that farmer," said John E. Gherty, president and chief executive officer of Land O'Lakes, in his address to more than 3,000 delegates and guests attending the cooperative's 71st annual meeting in Minneapolis, Feb. 25-26.
 Gherty outlined the three challenges most critical to the future of cooperatives. "The first is to maintain a strong system focus, the second is to have strong financial performance and the third is to focus on doing what's necessary to serve the farmer of the 21st century," he said.
 To meet these challenges, Gherty said that cooperatives must provide: long-term sources of supply or access to markets; access to research and technical resources; participation in a system with sufficient economies of scale; a collective voice in legislative and regulatory matters affecting farmers; and the opportunity for farmers to share in the benefit of owning a system which generates value-added returns.
 "But the democracy reflected in our system is both our greatest strength and our greatest liability. Just because we're a cooperative does not excuse us from the need to be disciplined, or remove the need to build a strong system," Gherty said. "Farmers need to think longer- term and recognize the strategic importance of a strong, farmer-owned system. And cooperatives at all levels need to be competitive and provide necessary products and services."
 To be competitive and provide those products and services, and meet the increased social and legislative needs of the 21st century, cooperatives must be financially successful business organizations, Gherty said. "By consistently achieving this goal, we'll be better able to serve our members."
 Gherty challenged the audience -- and cooperatives in general -- to plan for the needs of farmers in the 21st century. "If you don't plan for the farm of the future, the 21st century producer will find other ways to meet his or her needs. And it won't be because they have different values or because they reject the idea of cooperatives. It will be because the system no longer serves their needs," he said.
 To prepare Land O'Lakes for a successful future, Gherty outlined the cooperative's four main goals for 1992: to achieve pretax earnings of $55 million and net earnings of $49.5 million; to continue focusing on the performance and growth of core businesses; to revolve $21.1 million of equities, with cash payments to members totaling $36.5 million; and to build and develop a superior workforce.
 Gherty also recapped Land O'Lakes performance and growth of its core businesses in 1991. "No single business unit had a record year, but through teamwork, we hit an all-time high," he said.
 The feed, seed and agronomy divisions reported impressive gains: increasing the unit sales of feed in the Midwest by 8 percent; selling 24 percent more soybean seed and 13 percent more seed corn; and increasing sales of crop protection products by 8 percent. The Dairy Foods operation set a record with an 8 percent increase in sales of consumer, value-added products, while milk volume expanded by 193 million pounds.
 "1991 was truly a good year," he said. "We accomplished our financial objectives, and more importantly, we accelerated our investments in people and facilities."
 Land O'Lakes is a Twin Cities-based food and agricultural cooperative owned by farmers, ranchers and local cooperatives in 15 states. It provides agricultural supplies to more than 1,600 local cooperatives serving 300,000 farmers, and it procures milk from more than 6,000 Upper Midwest dairy producers. The cooperative is widely recognized for the more than 600 food products it markets in the U.S.
 -0- 2/26/92
 /CONTACT: Terry Nagle of Land O'Lakes, 612-481-2271 or 612-335-6811 (2/25-26)/ CO: Land O'Lakes, Inc. ST: Minnesota IN: SU:


AL -- MN002 -- 2609 02/26/92 02:06 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Feb 26, 1992
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