40 Square Cooperative Solutions Hosts First Annual Meetings, Elects New Board Members

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Reorganizational meeting also held, expanded board to nine seats and added investor member

40 Square Cooperative Solutions

40 Square Cooperative Solutions held its first annual meetings of members in late March at United Farmers Cooperative in Winthrop, Minn. and elected new members to its Board of Directors. Rep. Tim Miller, who authored the legislation to allow for health plan cooperatives in Minnesota, was a guest speaker. Rep. Jeremy Munson, a 40 Square health plan participant and the newest Minnesota legislator elected in a special election last month, also spoke to the quorum crowd of attendees.

With the departure of several large insurance carriers from rural Minnesota counties in 2016, the state legislature recognized the need for a new health plan solution for farm families. Rep. Miller championed the cause for the creation of agricultural health plan cooperatives and the ability to offer coverage options to members. With the passage of an amendment to Senate Bill 1, health plan cooperatives in the state of Minnesota were able to offer new health care solutions. Today 40 Square is the largest health plan cooperative in the state.

“We were extremely pleased with the turn out for our first annual meetings,” said Char Vrieze, Executive Director for 40 Square. “Our members are active advocates who are passionate about 40 Square’s mission to bring quality health care coverage options to Minnesota farm families. We are excited to continue with our vision of bringing trust, transparency and ownership to the members we serve.”

The annual meetings included a health fair and informational learning sessions, with partner vendors from HealthiestYou, Alithias and MedTrakRx. Spire and SouthPoint Financial Credit Unions also participated with information regarding health savings accounts. Additional vendor partners included EBSO, Inc., Farmers Union Insurance Agency, AdvisorNet Insurance, IFC National Marketing and Risty Benefits, Inc.

Following the annual meeting, the 40 Square Board of Directors held a reorganizational meeting. They expanded the cooperative board to nine seats allowed by the co-op bylaws and added an investor member, bringing the board makeup to five producer members and four investor members. The board also has two non-voting advisory members.

The newly elected 40 Square Board consists of:

Robby Gieseke, Oakland Farms, Chair
Robby is part of a family farming operation in Nicollet, Minn., which grows corn, soybeans, alfalfa, and barley for a local brewery and operates a 250-cow herd. In addition to 40 Square, Robby serves on several other boards which include, United Farmers Cooperative, United Natural Gas, Southern MN Directors Association, Nicollet County Soil and Water Conservation District, and Fields of Grace Church Council.

Cole Trebesch, Trebesch Farms, Vice Chair
Cole has been involved with Minnesota Soybean for over 10 years, serving on both the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association Board as well as the Minnesota Research and Promotion Council. He also serves on the Farmward Cooperative Board. Cole farms corn, soybeans, and raises a few cattle and custom feed hogs with his family in Springfield.

Jeff Nielsen, United Farmers Cooperative, Secretary/Treasurer
Jeff is currently the President/CEO of United Farmers Cooperative (UFC), a position he has held since 1999. Prior to joining UFC in 1995 as their VP of Feed, he spent several years in sales and sales management positions with Growmark and Land O Lakes. Jeff was born and raised on a large diversified dairy farm in Wisconsin where he learned the value of hard work and diversity, which helped shape his beliefs in the principles of cooperatives and has been instrumental in several start-up cooperative businesses, including 40 Square.

Curt Eischens, Cooperative Network, Director
Curt is currently a member of Cooperative Network’s board of directors and serves as the Minnesota Cooperative Education Foundation’s vice chair. He is also a member of the Minnesota Soybean Association, Minnesota Corn Growers, Minnesota Farmers Union, Minnesota FFA Alumni Association (Life Member) and the National FFA Alumni Association. Curt operates a family corn and soybean farm near Minneota, Minn.

Kevin Lauwagie, Lauwagie Farms, Inc. Director
Kevin has served as the Director of United Farmers Cooperative since 1997. He currently chairs the board of RS Fiber, and is a member of the GFW FFA Alumni. Located in Winthrop, Kevin has served on various other boards while maintaining a corn and soybean farm with his wife, Sue.

Bruce Maas, Maas Dairy, Director
Bruce is the director of Farmers Co-op of Milroy and has been corporate director for Associated Milk Producers Inc. for the last 18 years. He has also been a township clerk for 20 years. In addition to his board service, Bruce milks 300 cows and farms 1,300 acres in Walnut Grove, Minn.

Dean Sonnabend, Crystal Valley Cooperative, Director
Dean serves as a board director for Crystal Valley Cooperative. He has served as a Ceresco Township supervisor since 2000 and have been active on the St. Peter’s Lutheran church council for 22 years. He and his wife, Tammy, have been farming in the Vernon Center area since 1987.

Karen Richter, DKR Swine Farm, Director
Karen currently serves on the Executive Committee of the United States Meat Export Federation and is a member of the National Pork Board’s International Marketing, Domestic Marketing, and Sustainability committees. She is also a member of the Swine Industry Audit Task Force and is Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization (PAACO) trained swine farm auditor. Karen and her husband, Dave, operate a third-generation family-owned, swine and crop farm located near Montgomery, Minn.

Therese Romsdahl, Minnesota Farmers Union, Director
Therese and her husband Brian are members of Minnesota Farmers Union and they farm corn, soybeans and cattle in Butterfield, Minn. Now retired, she worked at Shakopee Police Department for 30 years as their Records Supervisor.

Karen Richter of DKR Swine Farm was voted in as the newest producer board member and Therese Romsdahl of Minnesota Farmers Union was elected as an investor member. Terms last for one to three years, allowing for a staggering of open seats for future board elections.

The five producer members of Gieseke, Lauwagie, Maas, Richter and Trebesch will also serve as Trustees for the 40 Square Consortium.

The co-op’s Advisory board members include Rich Sobalvarro and Terri Moxley. Rich Sobalvarro serves as 40 Square’s General Counsel advisor. He also serves as the Chief Executive Officer and General Counsel of the Parthenon Agency, an entity which provides self-funded workers compensation, and property and casualty coverage for a large number of Minnesota’s agricultural cooperatives.

Terri Moxley is a Senior Sales Specialist in the Employee Benefits Division of EBSO, Inc, a Third Party Administrator headquartered in St. Paul, Minn. and Milwaukee, Wis. She works closely with 40 Square to provide benefit management solutions that best fit the organization’s needs. Terri has also enjoyed being part of several benefit and wellness committees for the clients she works with.

To learn more about 40 Square Cooperative Solutions, contact 844-205-9579.

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Colleen McGuire
Colleen McGuire Communications
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