By Ryan Richardson–The Owensboro Times
Cargill, a privately held but family-run American global food corporation, completed the acquisition of Owensboro Grain Company last month. Integration leader Don Camden says they plan to maintain the legacy of Owensboro Grain while bringing in Cargill’s resources to grow the international footprint.
Camden spoke Saturday morning to a room full of farmers and local officials during the annual Farm City Breakfast hosted by the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce. He promised attendees that Cargill intends to keep up the practices and traditions that have made Owensboro Grain successful since it started 116 years ago.
“What’s really important to us is to make sure that we protect and genuinely take care of the Owensboro Grain legacy that the family has built over time,” Camden said. “As far as the integration goes, we’re taking it very slowly. We’ll bring Cargill resources in to help make the company grow and be even better, but I don’t want to go past the fact that Owensboro Grain is a great company with good employees, good customers, and good partners in the community.”
Camden said he understood it was a difficult decision for Owensboro Grain’s owners and board members to sell the company.
“Why do you sell a business that’s very successful in an environment like this? Because this has turned into a very global marketplace. And with renewable fuels, and renewable diesel and those types of activities going on across the country and around the world, it’s very important to have global supply chains,” he said. “(Former President/CEO Helen Cornell and Executive VP/fifth-generation owner John Wright) and others saw that they needed to do something different in order to make sure that their customers and their employees were taken care of and had access to those global markets.”
Cornell essentially said the same thing in November when news broke of the planned acquisition.
“We realized that in order to be competitive in the market today, in this particular industry, you really need to have a global footprint, because it’s just become a global industry,” Cornell said at the time. “And as a result of that, we decided to look for a strong strategic partner that would be able to take our products into the export market, bring resources and talents to do so, and then also to bring additional products into Owensboro Grain.”
Owensboro Grain Company was founded in 1906 as a small grain merchant and today operates a fully integrated soy processing facility, producing soy products, including protein meal and hull pellets for animal feeds, crude and degummed oil, lecithin, various blends of refined vegetable oil for human consumption, biodiesel, glycerin and industrial waxes.
Cargill was founded in 1865 with one grain elevator in Iowa but is now based in Minnesota. Today they have 160,000 employees in 70 countries, and we do business or have customers in 125 countries around the world.
Camden said being a big multinational company can bring a negative connotation sometimes and acknowledged “there are rumors about how we will run things.”
“I can tell you we are still very much run differently than a lot of companies I have exposure to in the fact that we still try to act like a family-type of business,” he said. “Owensboro Grain runs things very effectively with farmers, and we won’t change that. They have put investment into the facilities so you can get in and out of there quicker. They pay you competitive prices. All of the things that you need, we will continue to do.”
Camden added, “Farmers are very important to Cargill. They’re the foundation of most everything we do. If we didn’t have farmers in our business, we couldn’t do the things that we do today. We will continue to invest for farmers. We will help with risk management, we will help with grain marketing. We will be able to bring (sustainability) opportunities for farmers.”
Camden said that for now they are keeping the entity of and operating as Owensboro Grain Company, but that there could eventually be a transition to the name Cargill. He reiterated that they “don’t want to change the culture of Owensboro Grain because it is so strong.”
“Part of the integration piece of my job is making sure that we take the best things of Owensboro and protect those from Cargill, then find what Cargill needs to bring in from a resources standpoint to make the company better,” Camden said. “It’s my job to make sure that those two things come together.”