Dennis Bolling to join co-op hall of fame

Dennis Bolling
Dennis Bolling

COLUMBUS — Retired United Producers CEO Dennis Bolling will receive the cooperative community’s highest honor May 4, when he will be inducted into the Cooperative Hall of Fame.

Bolling, who retired as president and CEO of United Producers Inc. at the end of 2015, had been with the cooperative since 1989. United Producers is an Ohio-based livestock marketing, finance and member services cooperative serving farmers in the Midwest.

Co-op career

Bolling has spent close to four decades serving the cooperative sector, starting in 1980, when he began working at the Louisville Bank of Cooperatives, a predecessor institution to CoBank. There, one of his accounts was Producers Livestock Association, the organization that later became United Producers Inc.

When he joined the organization in 1989, Bolling helped then Producers Livestock Association emerge from the economic downturn that plagued the agriculture sector throughout much of the ’80s. In 1999, he oversaw a series of mergers that doubled the co-op’s size and expanded its services to producers in 10 states.

In late 2001, Bolling steered UPI through a complex, eight-year legal and financial labyrinth in the wake of a Ponzi scheme that left it bankrupt and $80 million in debt. Under his leadership, UPI not only survived what was widely seen as a crippling setback, but its members emerged protected and its operations undamaged. Today, UPI is the largest livestock marketing cooperative in the U.S., serving 45,000 members, marketing 3 million head of livestock and recording annual sales of $1.2 billion last year.

Industry passion

Once UPI was stabilized, Bolling turned his attention to his lifelong passion — cooperative education and development. An advocate of strong board governance, he developed a board certification program and used the Farm Credit Services’ leadership modules to provide advanced governance training to co-op boards.

At a time when the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives’ education program was on the brink of disappearing, Bolling helped reinvent it and ensure its broad support. To build a more engaged and efficient workforce, he created UPI University, which includes company orientation, sales and management training courses.

Bolling was instrumental in creating numerous cooperative education organizations, including the Center for Cooperatives, Business and Community Education and Development at Ohio State University and the Mid America Cooperative Council.

Bolling serves on the executive committee and as chair of the education committee at NCFC, and also chairs the board of the NCFC Foundation.

Also being inducted this year are Dennis A. Johnson, former president and CEO of the St. Paul Bank for Cooperatives; and Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard, author of Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice.

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