The 79th Annual Stockholders’ Meeting of Western Cooperative Company (WESTCO) took place on Wednesday, Dec 16.
The cooperative had its sixth-best year in its 79-year history, even with the Covid 19 pandemic, which is not to say the business didn’t have its share of lows.
It began when the schools closed in mid-March. A community felt blow, as small towns really operate around their schools.
“When the schools closed virtually overnight, and people began going home and staying home, our C-Stores business went down 40 percent,” said David Briggs, CEO of WESTCO. “We began having discussions of laying people off because you can’t run a business with that kind of loss.
WESTCO did take advantage of the Payment Protection Program to keep their employees on through the first part of the pandemic. Just in time, spring arrived, and the crops went in and got harvested.
Briggs noted some of the highlights for Westco included expenses for 2020, were down $400,000. Part of the cost savings came from lower fuel prices, as WESTCO vehicles drive around western Nebraska and eastern Wyoming, and a smaller dry bean crop. The smaller crop saved money on operating expenses in the three major plants. The cooperative also saw a $600,000 decrease in interest and achievement of target margins.
For patronage in total, WESTCO is returning $2.8 million in cashback to members in 6,000 checks, which will go out before Christmas.
Briggs also gave an outlook for the next year, including the Covid vaccine, low-interest rates, and improved commodity pricing.
“You know, back in June of 2020, if we knew we could have gotten $4 corn and $5 wheat, we would have been very happy,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to lock in some prices for next year. You don’t have to do it all it but some of it, and it all goes back to know your cost of production.”
The Board also recognized Craig Henkel and Dan Oligmueller, who fulfilled their terms on the Board. Henkel served six years on the WESTCO Board of Directors, and Oligmueller served a total of 19 years, making him one of the longest-serving board members in the cooperative’s history.
Trabor Bauer and Joe Thompson were elected to serve three-year terms on the Board of Directors in elections.
With COVID-19 precautions, the meeting was held virtually via Zoom, and members can visit westco.coop to view the entire meeting.