My Way of Thinking: The President’s review

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Rick Patton As America approaches another Presidential election, let’s take a couple steps back from the partisan sniping, unending television ads and biased mainstream media reporting to examine the situation from the perspective of a real world scenario in agriculture. The setting is the boardroom of Liberty Co-op in Iowa, and Barry Soetoro, Liberty’s General Manager has just arrived for his performance review with board president Jim Madison.

Madison: Well Barry, as you know it’s time for your performance review to determine if you’ve accomplished what you promised the board and our farmer-owners when you interviewed for this job back in 2008. Granted, you were facing some tough economic headwinds here at Liberty Co-op caused by previous policy to push banks to make farmland loans to new farmers that really couldn’t afford it, and when those defaults started, the domino effect on the whole state of Iowa was pretty dramatic. But you came in promising so much hope and change that you were selected to lead this Co-op back to prosperity.

So let’s review some of your key objectives and your results:  1) You committed to cut our debt in half by the end of your four year term; 2) You committed to bring us together; the farmer owners, the board and the 50 retail plant managers that make up the operating team.  I believe your exact words when accepting the job were “this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow, and our planet began to heal”; 3) You committed to reduce the rising cost of custom application; 4) You committed to a new way of doing business, and that your administration would be the most transparent ever; and finally 5) you committed to closing down our foreign operations.

How do you believe you’ve performed?

Barry: I believe Liberty Co-op and our farmer owners are better off than four years ago. I solved the escalating custom application costs, and everything is scheduled for the foreign shut down. As far as the deficit, it was a much deeper hole than I imagined. And amongst the farmers, I believe a lot of the Iowa State fans/farmers are beginning to see that my U. of Iowa philosophies are sound. All in all, I definitely feel I’ve earned another four years.

Madison: Barry, I don’t see it that way. Let’s start with the debt, which under your watch has skyrocketed from $10.6 million to $16 million. A 51% increase! This also represents 70% of our annual gross revenues.

Barry: Wait a minute…. That’s not my fault.  It’s Dubya’s fault. He left me with a mess.

Madison:  Yes, Dubya made some mistakes, but we hired you to fix it. Not only did you fail to fix it, you made it worse. You failed to lead. You’ve been operating this Co-op without a budget for three years now! And when your operating team failed to produce a budget, you built your own budget. Your investment priorities, your direction, your financial plan.  And your budgets were a joke… you called for an additional $9 million in debt over the next 10 years!  And the board, controlled by your Hawkeyes, voted unanimously to reject both of your budgets. What happened to your pledge to go “line by line” through the budget to eliminate waste and balance the budget?

Regarding reigning in custom application costs – your solution was requiring all pesticide purchases to be custom applied or pay a fee. Some growers don’t want custom application, and they can’t believe this Co-op would mandate this tax to cover the costs for those using custom app. Now with more custom app acres than we can handle, our growers won’t get to keep their favorite operator, plus you didn’t budget to hire more drivers and buy more sprayers. Brilliant.

And this custom app. situation was a perfect example of your disregard for transparency and unwillingness or inability to bring people together. The Cyclone fans had some great ideas, but you rammed your Hawkeye ideology down the throats of our farmers. Your plan has some good elements, but the process, the loss of individual freedom and the ultimate financial cost to Liberty Co-op will be your legacy.

Ultimately, you’ve failed to lead. I’ve never seen our farmers, and this Co-op so divided. You and David Axlegrease have intentionally taken this approach to secure another four years as the GM. You’ve divided this Co-op based on race, gender, financial success, and faith trying to sway Cyclones and independent farmers to vote Hawkeye.

I guess we should have done a better background check. We knew it was a risk hiring a new GM that had never even run a retail location, but we hired you to restore this Co-op believing you would build upon the foundation of Hawkeyes Clinton and JFK. But it’s now clear your foundation lies with Frank Marshall Davis and Saul Alinsky.  

Should Liberty Co-op hire a new General Manager? Or does Barry deserve four more years to make his policies work? Cast your vote and comment.

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A Lurker    
USA  |  October, 18, 2012 at 08:16 AM

Highly unprofessional commentary.

Missouri  |  October, 18, 2012 at 08:56 AM

The article is right on.

MU Tiger    
Kansas City  |  October, 18, 2012 at 09:48 AM

These comments are right on. When you look at this administration without the "spin" propogated by professional PR hacks, it is obvious that they are in over there heads, they provides "solutions" to non-existent problems, create issues to service only their consituency groups, and have very little real world knowledge or experience. This administration is ill equiped to address the issues facing our nation, and is extremely detrimental to our industry.

October, 18, 2012 at 10:19 AM

Sorry. It's obviously your right as publisher to print whatever you want. But this update otherwise provides decent information and it seems a shame to reduce it's value with political rants. I am unsubscribing.

B.A. Buckeye    
Ohio  |  October, 18, 2012 at 10:48 AM

Very creative and unfortunately accurate. For the thin skinned comments, this is why it is called an "EDITORIAL"...

MO  |  October, 18, 2012 at 01:42 PM

A good Manager would never just talk bad points, they would talk goods points first. When an employee say his only job is to see to a one term Manager that person should be fired. Finally if the employees take a pledge to a lobby agianst the company to do all in its powers to fix the problem they should be fired Gover Norquist.

USA  |  October, 18, 2012 at 01:44 PM

Your analogy about the Co-op and the Republican talking points was childish and borish. The name of your mag is Ag Professional. There was nothing professional in your editorial. Until now I have had a high opion of your mag and have always enjoyed reading it. As a CCA and a menber of ARA, I expect more professionalism that was shown in this article. If you don't like the current President, just say so and let us know why you think he has been bad for agriculture. Be specific, state your case. This cutesy editorial was just plain garbage.

Don Jameson    
Yakima, WA  |  October, 18, 2012 at 01:45 PM

This is a well written analogy story. His policies and decisions are affecting the increased gas costs. The allowance of QE printing of money is a ticking bomb to raise inflation rates. He has majorly worked at class dividing. He has spent money to advertise to get more people on food stamps, or shall we say promoted Liberty clients to come in and line up for free seed and fertilizer, that the farmers who get going each morning must pay for. Do Barry a favor and let him succeed in another line of work, before he drives Liberty shareholder value into the "dirt"!!

John Oster    
Ohio  |  October, 24, 2012 at 01:38 PM

I'm still chuckling about Barry's performance review. Let's hope the Board members vote to replace him at their November meeting !!! Thanks for interjecting some beautiful political humor into what has rapidly become one ugly battle.

October, 24, 2012 at 01:40 PM

American agriculture will be affected by the outcome of the election; I don't see an issue with this publication allowing an editorial on the subject. I have read several opinions, like this one, reflecting both parties’ views over the years in connection with presidential elections. This is not a new approach the analogy is easy to connect to the President because it is well known, if it was not accurate it would not hit home as hard as it apparently has. Everyone has an opinion and publications should have the opportunity to allow opinions to be published. I read lots of news and opinions in the D.C. Washington Post that I don't agree with but I still read the paper. I have read AgProfessional for years it hardly has a history of any political leanings. If you limit the publication's copy to only what you believe in or want to read, that's called censorship.


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