Rural Missouri - February 2013 - (Page 5)

Hart to Heart A grassroots revival W by Barry Hart ay back in 1941, electric cooperatives faced a serious problem. The nation was gearing up for almost certain involvement in a world war, and copper wire needed for power lines was in short supply. Leaders of those electric cooperatives felt they were not getting their share of the available wire. A delegation from Missouri headed to the nation’s capital, where they were met with open arms by the entire Missouri delegation, including both senators, Harry Truman and Champ Clark. After hearing the coop’s story, Truman arranged a meeting with Vice President Henry Wallace. Wallace, in turn, made sure the case was heard at the Rural Electrification Administration. Whether it was lobbying for more wire in Washington, D.C., or explaining the need for uniform policies when lines had to be moved for road construction in Jefferson City, electric cooperatives in those days enjoyed tremendous political clout. Today, we are still welcomed with open arms by our congressional delegation. But the job of protecting rural people from those issues that threaten low rates and reliable service has grown a lot more difficult. That fact is due in large part to a recent Supreme Court decision that opened the doors to almost unlimited corporate contributions to “super PACs.” If access to elected officials becomes based on how much money an organization has to spend, rural people are in trouble. We do not have the money to go head to head with many of the special interest groups out there spending millions of dollars in campaigns. Fortunately, there is still great strength in numbers when it comes to political activism. Together, the nation’s electric cooperatives serve close to 42 million consumers. In Missouri alone, there are around 1.5 million people with a vested interest in low-cost, reliable electricity from their electric cooperatives. Last year, Glenn English, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, issued a direct challenge to the leaders of the nation’s electric cooperatives. In the forceful terms of an evangelist speaking at a brush arbor revival, he told managers, key employees and directors that they must recommit themselves to building the political muscle that electric co-ops were known for in the early days of the rural electric program. “If access to elected officials becomes based on how much money an organization has to spend, rural people are in trouble.” Barry Hart “There is nothing that you can do as a manager or a director that will have more impact on your members’ electric bills than getting involved in this fight and building your political strength,” English said in his address to the 2012 NRECA annual meeting. He called the 42 million electric cooperative members a “sleeping giant” waiting to be stirred into action. When it comes to Missouri’s electric co-ops, English was preaching to the choir. We already have an excellent grassroots program that can be called upon to reach elected officials when we have an issue that needs their attention. But we can do better. We need to reach deep into the membership at each and every electric cooperative in the state in order to build a new grassroots army. Our only chance to be at the table when issues affecting rates come up is to get members such as you involved. Please answer the call as your electric cooperative puts its “grassroots revival” in place. Together, we can keep rural Missouri an affordable place in which to live. Hart is the executive vice president of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives. Guest Column MIC creates better co-op directors I by Kenny Lenz t is my privilege to be involved in the governance of a dairy marketing cooperative. I take my responsibility very seriously. As a board member, I want to serve with the strongest team of directors possible. In my view, the most effective boards embrace continuous learning. I especially welcome the opportunity to learn from other cooperative directors with experience in sectors or structures that differ from my cooperative. We share common responsibilities, goals and interests. Networking with other cooperative directors helps me gain insights and practical tips. The Missouri Institute of Cooperatives (MIC) provides a perfect opportunity for networking. MIC is an excellent, independent provider of director education programs. MIC is the only program in Missouri that brings together leaders from many types of cooperatives for director development. Since MIC serves a broad membership, the programs allow directors to exchange ideas regarding effective board practices across a variety of cooperatives. MIC’s focus is on director issues unique to cooperatives. Each program features speakers with detailed knowledge and experience on timely topics. MIC’s relationship with the University of Missouri provides access to worldclass educators, trainers and research on co-ops. MIC strives to design programs to serve all levels of experience — whether a potential director, a newly elected director or a board member with long tenure. Firsttime attendees are eligible for scholarships, sponsored by the MFA Foundation, to waive the registration fees. I realize fellow directors who serve on electric, farm credit, farm supply or new generation co-op boards have an excellent organization in which to network as well as strong training programs of their own. MIC does not replace these programs — it supplements them extraordinarily well. For instance, a popular feature of the MIC program is a panel of directors addressing a specific topic, such as equity management, risk management, succession planning or the role of the board chair. This feature gives participants opportunity to compare multiple ways to address issues, while discussing the merits of each approach. Often the most valuable discussion results when leaders are candid about what works “Engaged boards of directors are critical to the continued success of Missouri’s cooperatives.” Kenny Lenz FEBRUARY 2013 — and what doesn’t. Learning from fellow directors is at the heart of MIC programs. In Missouri, our legacy of self-help through cooperatives is strong. Today, nearly 500 cooperatives serve more than 2 million members and create more than 60,000 jobs in our state. Engaged boards of directors are critical to the continued success of Missouri’s cooperatives. Directors give generously for little compensation to guide the cooperative business. Cooperative boards must be skilled in carrying out fiduciary responsibilities as well as understanding the needs of the members. Cooperative directors must be adept at balancing conflicting interests. The board’s responsibility is becoming increasingly complex and more time consuming. That makes education all the more important. I urge all directors, present and future, to attend MIC’s Director Program on March 12 and 13 in Columbia. For more information, go to www. or call the MIC office at 573882-0140. Lenz, a farmer from Bunceton, serves on several cooperative boards and is the vice president of the Missouri Institute of Cooperatives. 5

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - February 2013

Rural Missouri - February 2013
Table of Contents
A lasting tribute
Preparing for the worst
Whittling wildlife
Out of the Way Eats
Our history with Missouri’s future leaders
Hearth and Home
The cowboy way of life
Co-ops care
Around Missouri

Rural Missouri - February 2013