Farmers approve Wilco-HGO merger

Mateusz Perkowski of The Capital Press

A view of the Wilco headquarters. Wilco and Hazelnut Growers of Oregon, two farm cooperatives, have agreed to a merger of their two operations.

The members of two Oregon farm cooperatives, Wilco and Hazelnut Growers of Oregon, have overwhelmingly voted to merge their operations.

The combination of Wilco, which focuses on farm supplies and fuel, with HGO, which processes and markets hazelnuts, is planned to be complete by Aug. 1.

A major result of the merger is the expected relocation of HGO’s facility in Cornelius to a new plant before the 2018 harvest that’s more centrally located in the Willamette Valley, the nation’s major hazelnut-growing region.

Construction of the HGO’s new processing plant will be made smoother due to the financial stability provided by Wilco, which generates about $220 million in annual revenues through its 17 farm stores, seven agronomy centers and bulk fuel sales service.

Together the two cooperatives will have about 900 employees, though some positions may be cut due to redundancies when a portion of HGO’s office functions are moved to Wilco’s headquarters in Mt. Angel.

Doug Hoffman, Wilco’s current CEO, would remain as chief of the merged cooperative while HGO’s CEO, Jeff Fox, will head its hazelnut division.

Farmers will earn equity and dividends in the combined cooperative based on their purchases of farm supplies as well as their hazelnut deliveries, though the pools will remain separate.

Among Wilco’s members, 79 percent voted for the merger while 99 percent of HGO’s membership’s supported it.