Organic Valley farmers gathered at the La Crosse Center on Thursday for the 30th Annual Business Meeting. During the meeting, co-op leaders reviewed the good and the bad from 2017.
Organic Valley experienced a 4% growth in business last year, but even with that growth, the co-op also had its biggest financial loss in 20 years. Those at Organic Valley say a combination of factors led to an overall loss of approximately $10 million after taxes. It was an excess supply of milk that put pressure on farmers across the country, creating pressure to cut pricing and a slow in sales that was worse than anticipated.
"We had to react to being oversupplied, and we tried to avoid cutting our farmers pay price which we finally did some, but because of that, we started ended up losing money which is what a co-op should do to try to level out the bumps in the road," said George Sieman, CEO of Organic Valley. "This year, we feel we're going to have a good year. We don't feel challenged about it at all."
Sieman says the farming industry today is similar to the state of the industry when the co-op started 30 years ago.
"Organic Valley CROPP was formed to deal with the farm crisis in the 80s, and it's really sad now to see a crisis now in this day and age," he said. "I really believe there must be some way for us to choose government or consumer-wise to support family farms."
Sieman says he is optimistic about the future. Even through cutting prices, he says the farmers continue to stand behind the co-op.
Last year, Organic Valley had more than $1.1 billion in gross sales for the second year in a row.
While the co-op continues to put family farms first, Organic Valley recently launched its first nationwide marketing campaign to focus on the brand.