Cooperatives - A Great Career Opportunity in Agriculture

Recently, many people have been asking my advice on where the greatest opportunity for jobs in the agriculture industry is. Over the next several weeks, I will attempt to break down several areas of the industry that are working hard to recruit top talent. In this economy, you might find it hard to believe that certain sectors of the industry are in high need, but believe it or not, its true. As we face many baby-boomers coming up for retirement, almost all sectors of agriculture will experience a shortage of well qualified workers. This week we’ll take a snap shot of the Cooperative system - where job openings seem to abound these days, and we’ll examine why.

A quick search on, AgJobNetwork, or AgCareerSpotter will show you many position openings in the cooperative system in the United States. These jobs range from Professional Applicators, to Controllers, Feed & Seed Sales, and upper management. Companies posting these types of openings include large organizations such as CHS Inc. and Land O Lakes, and smaller cooperatives like Farmers Cooperative in Iowa. After speaking with many recruiters, the story remains the same. They find it difficult to locate well educated, well versed, motivated, who are willing to relocate for the right opportunity.

Certainly there are a number of factors contributing to the massive numbers of open positions. First, it is the opinion of some that there are not enough agronomy, ag business, and animal science graduates coming out of our land grant universities. Next, relocation is another issue. Sometimes the best, most profitable positions are located in areas less attractive to live. As mentioned previously, retirement of our baby-boomer generation is staring us right in the face. In the next 5-10 years our most experienced employees will be hanging up their seed caps for their next adventure in life. Let us not forget about turn over. Longer hours, regulations, constant learning, competition, and more - these factors create a perfect storm for causing workers to look at new jobs.

With all the factors working against the cooperative system, one must also consider that this is likely one of the most rewarding areas of agriculture to work in. The people that run and work in coops are right in the middle of supplying the much needed inputs that make this industry tick. If you love agriculture and care about the industry, I can’t think of a more valuable sector to keep your eye on. In addition, the pay for these positions can be top notch - even for folks with just a few years of experience. What it takes is the ability to learn, grow, be persistent, and love the fact that you are part of the industry that feeds the world.