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Farmland Industries INC (1912-2004) | Morse Department of Special Collections

Name: Farmland Industries INC (1912-2004)


Historical Note:

On January 27, 1928, Howard A. Cowden formed Cowden Oil Company in Columbia, Missouri.  During this year, Cowden saw a worth-while cause in the growing cooperative movement.  In late 1928, he moved the offices of Cowden Oil Company to Kansas City and made plans to establish a regional wholesale cooperative.  On January 5, 1929, Cowden Oil Company dissolved and its assets were transferred to a new corporation named Union Oil Company on February 16, 1929.  In 1931, the trade name "CO-OP" was used and in 1932 the first CO-OP tires, tubes, and batteries were produced. The first issue of the Cooperative Consumer newspaper appeared on December 10, 1933.  It provided a regular tie between the company and its patrons.

In 1935, the Union Oil Company changed its name to Consumers Cooperative Association (CCA).  At this time it served 259 local cooperatives and had $2 million in annual revenues. The growing company needed to expand its physical facilities and purchased the property at 1500 Iron Street in Kansas City.  It was during this same year that the first co-op grease was produced.  The company continued to grow adding products such as paint, groceries, co-op tractors in 1936, co-op appliances and a Consumers Insurance Agency in 1937.

A Cooperative Refinery Association was established in 1938.  In 1940 the first CRA refinery was opened at Phillipsburg, Kansas and the first Co-Op oil well was launched at Layton, Kansas.  Additional refineries were opened at Scottsbluff, Nebraska in 1941 and Coffeyville, Kansas in 1944.

As the company grew it formed new divisions such as the National Cooperative Refinery Association (NCRA) and Cooperative Finance Association (CFA) in 1943 and Cooperative Farm Chemicals Association (CFCA) in 1951.  It also established feed mills, soybean plants, fertilizer plants, ammonium phosphate plants, meat packing plants, steel product plants, gas products plants, pork plant, battery plant, nitrogen plant, phosphoric acid plants, and wheat products plants throughout the central plains.

The company moved headquarters to 10th & Oak, Kansas City in 1944 and moved to 3315 N. Oak Trafficway in 1956. In 1960, Howard A. Cowden saw the company's first $1 million sales day.  The next year, in 1961, he retired and Homer Young was named the president of the company.  In 1966, the company changed its name to Farmland Industries, Inc.  Under Young's tenure, the company expanded its headquarters building, was instrumental in the establishment of the North Kansas City industrial complex, launching of a phosphate plant in Bartow, Florida, and exceeded $300 million in sales.

Ernest Lindsey was named company president in 1967.  During his reign, the company acquired several companies such as Farmers Life Insurance Company, Des Moines, Iowa (1967), Southern Farm Supply Association, Amarillo, Texas (1968), Woodbury Chemical Company, St. Joseph, Missouri (1969).  Farmland merged with companies such as Minnesota Farm Bureau Service Company and Producers Packing Company, Garden City, Kansas in 1968 and with Far-Mar-Co, the United States largest grain co-op in 1977.

John Anderson was named the president of Farmland in 1978.  During his time the company celebrated its 50th Anniversary (1979), produced the television series "American Trail," organized Farmland World Trade Company with export elevator located at Galveston, Texas, introduced the Co-op computer-based farm accounting system, and saw the first negative earnings for the company.

In 1983, Kenneth Nielson became president and three years later the company experienced a major loss in earnings even though it sold Terra Resources (1983), a gas plant in Lamont, Oklahoma (1984), the grain business (1985), and the steel products business (1985).

James Rainey became president in 1986 and made major expense reduction and organizational restructuring. Rainey eliminated nine divisional sales offices, and the Equipment and Supplies Division.  He sold the pork plant in Iowa Falls, Iowa, and the Texas gas plants.  He introduced the Master Commitment Agreement (1989), acquired a meat facility in San Leandro, California (1989), established a base capital plan, formed broadcast partners, and introduced the Farmland logo (1990).

In 1991, Harry D. Cleberg was named the president of Farmland.  He sold the battery and paint plants and the export elevator at Houston, Texas, and closed the Phillipsburg Refinery.  Several companies were acquired in 1993 such as Tradigrain, National Beef, Supreme Feeders, and National Carriers.  The first international office was opened in Mexico City in 1993, the construction of an ammonia plant took place in Trinidad in 1996. and a Farmland National Beef office opened in Tokyo in 1998.  Several Limited Liabilities Companies (LLC) were formed under Cleberg's tenure such as Livestock Services of Indiana, LLC (1996), Triton Tire & Battery, LLC (1997), Agriland Technologies, LLC (1998), Agrifarm Industries, LLC (1998), Triumph Pork Group, LLC (1999), and Rocky Mountain Milling, LLC (1999).

Bob Honse became the president of Farmland Industries in 2000.  In 2001, Farmland ranked #170 on the Fortune 500 company list.  Its annual revenues were in excess of $11.8 billion.  In 2002, the company had 16,000 employees and faced a liquidity crisis resulting from fluctuations in commodity prices and increased operational and capital costs as well as the tightening of credit terms from suppliers and increased demands from its stockholders.  The company filed for Chapter 11 in May 2002.  Farmland Foods, Inc., organized in 1970 produces, sells, and exports pork products in the United States and Internationally.  In 2002,  the pork processing division was sold to Smithfield Foods for $367 million and in 2014 it was acquired by The Smithfield Packing Company.  Farmland National Beef Packing Company was sold to US Premium Beef for $232 million.  The fertilizer production division was sold to Koch Industries and the company's refinery and coke-to-nitrogen fertilizer plant were sold to a hedge fund.

By 2006, all creditors were completely repaid $1.04 for every dollar.

Sources:

Farmland Industries Inc. Records.

Beyond the Fence Rows: A History of Farmland Industries, Inc., 1929-1978 by Gilbert C. File (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press), 1978.

Note Author: Cynthia A. Harris



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