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NEW Co-op named ag Retailer of Year

By Staff | Dec 13, 2014

Frank Huseman

FORT DODGE – NEW Cooperative was named the Agricultural Retailers Association Retailer of the Year for 2014. The award was presented to NEW Cooperative Director of Operations Frank Huseman on Dec. 3 during the ARA annual conference in New Orleans.

“We’re honored, humbled and excited to be named ARA’s Retailer of the Year,” said Huseman, who accepted the award along with four of NEW Cooperative’s regional operations directors. “It’s an exciting time to be involved in agriculture.”

The award, sponsored by Monsanto, ARA and AgProfessional magazine, honors retailers who represent the best of the industry. Retail outlets nominated for the award are evaluated based on innovative business practices, community and industry leadership, environmental stewardship, reliability, technology utilization, customer service and effective employee development programs.

Recent winners have included Morral Companies, Wheat Growers, Lyman/Tremont Group, Central Valley Ag and Willard Agri-Service.

Dan Dix, NEW Cooperative’s agronomy division manager, said the award covers more than corn and soybean members. It includes a wide area of ag-related co-ops.

“These things are good,” he said, “but they wouldn’t happen without our employee team.

“Their longevity and teamwork put us in line for this.”

According to ARA President and chief executive officer Daren Coppock. “Ag retailers make significant contributions to feeding the world and responsible stewardship of our natural resources

“NEW Cooperative is a great representative of the industry and deserving of this award.”

Headquartered in Fort Dodge NEW has 27 locations in nine counties and employs 350 full-time people in northwest Iowa.

The organization serves a territory of 100 miles north and south and 100 miles east and west.

Formed in 1973, NEW Cooperative is the result of the merger of two neighboring cooperatives in northeast Webster County, thus the acronym NEW. Since then, the combined co-op has grown organically and merged with other co-ops to expand its footprint.

Cooperative member and farmer Brad Koester said NEW Cooperative is deserving of the recognition based on the organization’s ability to adapt to the diverse and demanding needs of members.

“Every farmer is different; every farmer farms differently,” said Koester.”There is no right way or wrong way to farm.

“I do it the way that works for me, and my neighbor does it the way it works for him. But NEW Co-op is able to work with both of us to make it work for each individual.”

Adaptation and evolution is part of the culture at NEW Cooperative.

“I often tell our employee team that one of our goals is to try to anticipate what the customer wants before he knows he wants it,” said Brent Bunte, general manager of NEW Cooperative.

NEW Cooperative’s focus on members is evident through its investment in superior facilities, value-added services and quality employees, which has helped the organization to remain successful for more than 40 years.

“We spend about $20 million a year between rolling stock and facility improvements,” Bunte said. “Really, the facility growth is to meet the members’ needs, and a lot of the equipment growth is to meet the employees’ needs so they can bring more value to the customer.

“You really need to work every day at trying to bring value.”

NEW Cooperative further differentiates itself from other retailers through investment in precision agricultural services and technology.

The co-op employs a team of in-house and consulting computer programmers to develop and maintain the company’s Midwest Agronomic Professional Services, a retail and wholesale precision ag technology and software development platform.

Information from farmers’ operations and gathered by NEW Cooperative agronomy department employees is analyzed through MAPS for input recommendations that vary across each field.

Recommendations are “not one size fits all,” said Dix. He noted that about half of all the acres on which the co-op applies fertilizer is done as variable rate applications, which means the fertilizers and application rates can be quite different.

The co-op first entered the precision ag arena 20 years ago.

“We’re really proud of being a leader in this area, and it’s allowed us to grow and market our own software to other retailers,” Dix said.

Change in agriculture is constant, and especially in precision ag technology and adoption.

“We never get done in software development,” Dix said, “That’s something I learned years ago.

“Just when we think we’ve got everything we need, something changes, a grower’s needs change, the industry changes, government regulations cause things to have to be modified.

“We continually try to keep up.”

With cooperative membership growth, business expansion and reinvestment, recognition as Retailer of the Year is an award for the employee team, Bunte said.

He said the cooperative will, “Focus on taking care of customers and these things (the award) will happen.”

Huseman said, “I think our customers view NEW as a progressive business. I think NEW Cooperative is perceived as a winner in the industry.

“And when you are successful, it comes back to our customers being successful.”

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