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Co-op merger falls short locally
Jul 12, 2006 12:00 am
June 28, 2006 – The Wilson Farmers Cooperative will continue on its own following a vote Tuesday night against a merger with the Macon-Trousdale Cooperative.
More than 325 Co-op members packed into the East-West Building at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center to hear reasons for and against the merger with supporters endorsing local control.
Under the proposal, eight board members chosen by each respective cooperative would have held office with the first elections not coming until 2008. The move would have eliminated five of the nine-member Wilson Farmers Co-op Board of Directors.
Harold Patton, who managed the Lebanon Co-op store for 32 years, pointed out what he saw as several problems, including a lack of a property assessment for the Wilson Co-op.
"I see no reason the merger would improve our financial standing, nor will it increase our buying power," Patton said.
The former manager noted Tuesday night's meeting was the first in the 57-year history of the Wilson Co-op held via petition request of members.
Nearly 140 members signed a petition requesting the meeting.
The vote was first held at the March 14 Co-op meeting with 66 voting to merge and 31 voting against. Macon-Trousdale members voted 46-28 to merge.
However, some like attorney and Co-op member Neal Agee felt the vote represented too small a percentage of the Wilson Co-op's 1,370 members.
"I didn't feel like it was handled properly," Agee told members. "… That is not enough people."
Agee said the problems of the future could be addressed by locally elected directors.
"This Co-op is on sound financial footing," Agee said. "There are no problems with this Co-op that can't be solved with local control."
Those arguing for the merger said increased buying power and steady decline of farmland in Wilson County would eventually necessitate such a move.
Keeping the two entities separate "does not make business sense," said Roy Denny, whose father, Eugene Denny, was on the board of directors. "We need to do what makes the most business sense.
"… We're voting on not if the Co-op will change, but how it will change. … The merger will be required somewhere down the road."
Pal Neal, a farmer from Tuckers Crossroads, said consolidating could lower prices, in turn helping all members of what would have been termed the Cumberland Valley Co-op.
"We all know better prices will lead to better sales, and that's something all businesses want, including the Co-op," Neal said.
Of a total of 329 ballots, 185 opposed the merger while 142 were in favor.
Wilson Co-op Chairman Bill Patton, who would have been chairman of the Cumberland Valley Co-op and openly supported the merger, seemed resigned to the results Tuesday.
"I think if that's the way the vote went, that's the way it went," Patton said.
Staff Writer Jason Cox can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 45 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.