The 3 Things One Co-Op Is Focusing On During COVID-19

The physical health and safety of its employees and farmers have been a top priority for Landus Cooperative during the COVID-19 pandemic. ( Landus Cooperative )

Landus Cooperative CEO Matt Carstens says during the COVID-19 pandemic the co-op is focusing on three things: 

1.    The physical health and safety of their farmer members and employees

The co-op has put in place policies for social distancing and eliminated unnecessary on-farm visits, and those policies are in place through at least May 15. 

“This is the journey we are on right now,” Carstens says. “We don’t want to put in place restrictions that would hamper business, and in some ways it has been cumbersome, but it’s also been an opportunity to do business in a different way. We have found our app, customer portal, and other technologies still allow us to provide the services that we need to do.” 

He says the cooperative will continue to monitor the dynamics of the pandemic and will re-evaluate its policies for after May 15, but they will be “conservative” and keep employee and farmer health paramount in any decision. 

In an employee-led initiative, the cooperative has donated more than 1,000 unites of PPE to community medical centers. 

2.    Any way they can specifically help their livestock producers 

For their farmer members who raise livestock, Carstens says the feed team is reaching out to every customer every day or at least every other day. 

“We are tailoring rations, helping to understand the economics of the markets, and doing anything we can to help animals try to make it to a slot at a meat processing facility,” Carstens says. “Feed is the largest input for an animal. And we know, for example, pork producers are looking at losses of $20 to $50/head through the fall.”

3.    The mental health of their farmer members and employees

He says as a co-op they play a lot of different roles with farmer members, and right now they want all farmers to feel supported, heard and understood. 

“Even if it is just an empathetic ear, we want to be there for our farmers,” he says.

The cooperative also promotes the statewide hotline and services of Your Life Iowa. 

On a positive note, the agronomy side of their business is doing well thanks to a strong supply network and Mother Nature’s cooperation. 

While ethanol plants are idling, the cooperative is working to leverage its access to all seven rail lines in Iowa to move corn out of the state to destinations such as feed yards in Arizona, ports in Gulf, and other international markets. 

And Carstens has been doing a lot of interviews to put a spotlight on the hardships farmers are facing right now. The cooperative hosted a media webinar featuring two farmer owners, and Carstens gave interviews to Time magazine as well as a Chicago TV station. 

“With so much going on, it’s easy for the general public to not understand the complexities of the food system and when products shift from restaurant demand to grocery supplies. We are trying to take these opportunities to explain those details, while also working to find demand across the globe for the products our farmers produce,” Carstens says.

You can watch the webinar featuring the farmer owners here: 

Here’s the interview with Good Day Chicago:

 

 

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