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Country Visions, Kettle Lakes Coop pursue merger

Ray Mueller

REEDSVILLE – An agreement by two agricultural cooperatives based in eastern Wisconsin to build a joint facility for agronomy services is leading to the possibility of a merger of the two entities.

The two organizations are the Country Visions Cooperative and the Kettle Lakes Cooperative. Country Visions has businesses at 25 locations stretching from Lake Michigan to Ripon to the west and north to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan while Kettle Lakes is based in Sheboygan County, just to the south of the Country Visions trade area.

Pending an approval vote by the Kettle Lakes members on June 30, the two cooperatives would merge. The new organization would start operating on September 1.

Agronomy agreement

Based on their initial agreement, the cooperatives have already broken ground for a new joint agronomy facility in the city of Plymouth's industrial park at Willow Road and County Highway PP, a mile east of Highway 57 in Sheboygan County. It will be similar to but a bit larger than the new Country Visions facility in Wrightstown, according to the cooperative's chief executive officer Steve Zutz.

Zutz expects the new facility to be fully operating by the spring of 2018. It will have the capacity to store 13,000 tons of dry fertilizer in addition to handling seeds and crop chemicals. It will also have an office.

The new agronomy facility will allow both organizations to discontinue agronomy services that are being provided from their older facilities, Zutz points out. For Kettle Lakes, those are in Random Lake and Sheboygan Falls. Kettle Lakes also has a grain storage facility in Cedar Grove and a retail store in Sheboygan Falls.

Based on geographic considerations, Country Visions will also be moving agronomy services from older facilities at several of its current locations to the new agronomy center, Zutz notes. Not only will the current agronomy specialists be moved to the new facility but “more will be needed,” he states.

Business operations

According to the latest financial information, Country Visions has $158 million in annual sales through its agronomy, grain, retail, petroleum, and propane departments. While Country Visions has about 25,000 customers for its lineup of products and services, Zutz indicates that it has about 2,000 voting members (those who make at least $5,000 in purchases per year).

Country Visions also has a 60 percent ownership of CP Feeds, which is based at Valders in Manitowoc County. In its annual business, CP Feeds manufactures and sells livestock feed worth more than $146 million to farmers throughout east central and northeast Wisconsin.

Through its agronomy, grain, feed, and retail departments, Kettle Lakes has annual sales of about $40 million. It also owns half of Co-Energy Alliance, which sells petroleum and propane.

Regarding the merger, Zutz says the managers and governing board members of the two cooperatives believe a merger would enhance the value for members by boosting purchasing power and by improving efficiencies in the agronomy services.