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Published April 11, 2014, 10:25 AM

ND Cenex co-op wants new governing board; farmers, ranchers say focus leans too much on oilfield

Membership of the Killdeer (N.D.) Farmers Union Cenex Co-op has petitioned to have the governing board removed, citing a focus on oilfield business that has left farmers and ranchers in the dust.

KILLDEER, N.D. — Membership of the Killdeer (N.D.) Farmers Union Cenex Co-op has petitioned to have the governing board removed, citing a focus on oilfield business that has left farmers and ranchers in the dust.

Community members met in February to discuss their concerns over the changing products and services offered by the business. At the meeting, they decided they wanted to “replace the board and start from scratch,” member and farmer-rancher Taylor Bang said. About 70 members have signed a petition to remove the board.

“With the oilfield it seems like businesses for your farmers and ranchers like we used to have are going away,” Bang said.

The board will host a public meeting at the Killdeer Public School on April 24, as its bylaws require after a petition, which Bang hand-delivered to the store late last week.

Board president Doug Dukart declined to comment, saying as a private business the co-op had no obligation to talk to the public.

Members who signed the petition say they can’t get an oil change, have a tire fixed or buy common animal vaccines from the store as easily as they used to. Now, they’re heading to Dickinson, N.D., for those products and services.

“We feel that there’s enough going on in Killdeer, North Dakota,” Bang said. “There’s no reason we have to rely on Dickinson.”

Farmer-ranchers who frequent the store and shop say the local knowledgeable employees have quit.

A store that used to provide vaccines and other animal health products now no longer even has employees with enough veterinary expertise, rancher Dean Olson said, and doesn’t stock products like tack and horse medicines.

“... They just don’t want to cater to the farmer-rancher community,” said Wylie Bice, who farms 22 miles northwest of town. “I’d like to see it like it used to be.”

Olson said employees no longer walk you to the product you’re looking for. The shop doesn’t provide basic services, he said.

“We ranch out here west of the Killdeer Mountains and if we need a tractor tire fixed we have to call somebody from Dickinson — they can’t even fix a tractor tire,” he said.

The changing nature of the store is another sign of the relatively new oil industry changing the way of life for lifelong western North Dakota residents.

“They’re really gearing towards the oilfield — which is fine — but the farmers and ranchers kept that business open during the tough times and they should remember who kept the doors open during that time,” Olson said. “Yeah, oilfield is good bread-and-butter right now, and someday, somewhere it’s probably gonna die down and they’re gonna depend on the farmers and ranchers again to support it.”

Bang grew up with the co-op, and said it was around long before him.

“All these things came together,” he said, “and we just decided that, you know, we’re gonna try and get our old store.”

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