For the more than 120,000 member owners of the United Farmers of Alberta Co-operative (UFA) it’s more, much more, than about money. It is acknowledgement and gratifying feedback and it is a momentum of positivity in some unprecedented uncertain and difficult times.
The UFA is an association of Alberta farmers that has served different roles in its 100-year history – as a lobby group, a successful political party, and as a farm-supply retail chain.
The exciting good news? Early last month, at the UFA Annual Meeting, it was announced that the association had approved a patronage dividend of $14.2 million to its membership. In addition, UFA also reported $1.2 billion in financial revenues and $64 million in earnings (before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization).
It was inarguably a year of the unexpected and significant speedbumps. “This past year was like no other,” says the dynamic Scott Bolton, UFA president and CEO. “Farmers and ranchers are used to unknown variables and we all know that mother nature isn’t predictable. We also recognize that the petroleum sector has faced incredible challenges, particularly in recent years. But we made a commitment to our members, customers and teams to be transparent in our communication and to communicate early and often. And we did!”
It’s unanimous that the effects of the pandemic on life and business was transformational but, “As a member-owned agricultural cooperative, it is our responsibility to support our members and customers who continue to get the job done, even during a pandemic.
“The business of agriculture cannot stop,” he said with emphasis. “We were declared an essential service and we needed to ensure that farmers, ranchers and drivers all had access to what they needed to keep their operations running.”
Bolton acknowledges that the COVID impact meant many – and unique – changes for the UFA, its member-owners and customers. From simple but important details like keeping cardlock washrooms open for truck drivers, plexiglass barriers, social distancing, masks, proper PPE and a commitment to streamline the overall customer experience with features like a new point-of-sale system and Tailgate Pick-Up.
He also notes some examples of UFA and UFA member-owners pitching in with help and support, like partnering with AMTA for 25,000 free PPE kits for truck drivers, donating the last (4,800) of UFA’s N95 masks for AHS workers and also supporting Stars Air Ambulance, 4-H Canada and the Do More Ag Foundation who champion the wellbeing of Canadian producers.
“Our member-owners guide our decision making. And despite the many 2020 broadsides, we have a strong balance sheet and paying patronage to those who keep the agriculture industry moving has never been more important. Despite it being challenging, there have been bright spots and good news stories throughout the year,” Bolton adds with enthusiasm.
“We know that we are not out of the woods yet. Spring is coming. Seed will go in the ground. Calves will be born. Fuel will be delivered. But as they have done in the past, farmers and ranchers will adapt and move forward. UFA has weathered many storms and we will get through this one, because for over a century we’ve known that we are stronger together.”