Canadian crop farmers merge with US farm co-op Land O’Lakes

'The WinField United ownership model will be a great way to attract new member-owners and increase engagement among existing owners'

US farm co-op Land O’Lakes is expanding north of the border thanks to a merger of its WinField crop inputs and insights business with United Suppliers Canada to create a new company, WinField United.

The move ties Land O’Lakes, which is ranked third in the National Cooperative Bank’s list of top revenue-earning co-ops, in with a powerful player in the Canadian market, which has more than 45 owners and over 100 locations.

On its website, Land O’Lakes said: “Adding United Suppliers Canada to our portfolio means we’ll have access to the country’s largest crop production market—the western Canadian provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba).

“This geography accounts for 80% of Canada’s crop production—more than 65 million acres.”

United Suppliers is itself the result of a long consolidation process of independent agricultural retailers on the prairies of the US and Canada, which began in 2010 when 17 members with about 75 retail outlets formed the Grow Group of Independents.

Two years ago Grow Group joined US-based United Suppliers, which is owned by about 600 dealers with 2,800 locations, in a deal which brought greater purchasing power, distribution and agronomic support for their farmer-customers.

The new relationship spawned United Suppliers Canada, which now has about 6% of the regional market share and, through its nearly 50 owners and about 100 locations, 16% of the independent, non-chain market.

As Winfield United, it will be moving base to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Farmer-owned Land O’Lakes, based in St Paul, Minnesota, has about 4,500 members and last year earned $13.2bn in revenue and brings significant resources to the merger.

Land O’Lakes is one of the biggest co-ops in the US

 

Greg McDonald, the general manager of Winfield United, said: “This really is adding a lot to the Canadian independent’s group.

“Obviously, not everything that Land O’Lakes does in the US is a fit for Western Canada, but there are some great resources at WinField that will make the Canadian retailers very competitive, both with products and services.

“I will report to the US operation. There will be a Canadian advisory board and they will work with WinField United as well.”

Consolidation of businesses on both sides of the border has meant independent retailers increasingly need to be backed by a partner with size and scale that can help them compete.

Mr McDonald says the deal means services are available that would have been out of reach of smaller organisations.

It includes crop input, white-labelled pesticides, including technologies such as Interlock, a spray drift control product, and Winfield’s R7 agronomy software, which provides satellite imagery combined with the field, crop and soil data. These services would not have been available to smaller organisations, said McDonald.

“The WinField United ownership model will be a great way to attract new member-owners and increase engagement among existing owners,” he added.

“Our owners are excited to belong to something bigger,” says Mr McDonald. “They understand the importance of this merger. Even though they are independent, they know that long-term success is being able to bring results to their farming customers, who are constantly challenging them to deliver.”

He said transparent and open communication with WinField’s owners was crucial, with the team working at the ground level to learn what they need now and in the future to increase their capabilities.

“We’re also launching an owner advisory board so we can present opportunities and connect what Land O’Lakes has to offer,” he added. “They can help decide what initiatives they believe will be a fit for their businesses.”

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