By Tim Leeds
The cooperation between farmers and ranchers in Hill and Blaine counties recently became a little stronger.
Chinook's Farmers Union Oil Co. and Havre's Cenex Harvest States Cooperative merged, effective March 8, to form Milk River Cooperative. The new co-op is a division of Cenex Harvest States Cooperatives.
General manager Dan Johnson said the merger should improve the co-op's service and bottom line.
"Hopefully we are more efficient and also offer more and better services," he said Thursday.
He said the merger was logical because modern transportation had shrunk the distance between them. The two co-ops were so close together, they were starting to compete with each other.
"Twenty miles isn't anything anymore. (The merger) just made sense," he said.
Scott Aberg, general manager of Cenex in Havre, is now the operations manager for Milk River Cooperative.
Johnson said the merger, in the works for about 15 months, won't be obvious to co-op members or customers, he said.
"If you didn't know there was a merger, you wouldn't know it happened because nothing's going to change but the name," Johnson said.
The Blaine County cooperative was a locally owned co-op with operations in Chinook, Harlem and Turner. As part of Milk River Cooperative, it is now part of Cenex Harvest States.
People who had stock in Farmers Union Oil Co. now have an equal value of stock in Cenex Harvest States.
The combined assets of the co-op include supply stores, feed plants, fertilizer plants and bulk petroleum plants.
Johnson said the two cooperatives had been sharing some facilities for some time before the merger became effective.