Noel K. Estenson’s visionary leadership and willingness to take bold steps positioned agricultural cooperative members for 21st century success in the competitive global marketplace. Throughout his nearly 40-year career, he recognized the value of new business structures — joint ventures and mergers — as a means of creating operating efficiencies that built stronger cooperative organizations.
In the early 1980s, he led the formation of the ground-breaking joint venture between Cenex, Inc. and Land O’Lakes Inc. that eliminated duplication in both cooperatives’ agricultural supply and energy operations. In 1998, Estenson envisioned the long-term strategic value for member-owners of uniting supply cooperative Cenex with its grains and foods counterpart, Harvest States Cooperatives, which culminated in the largest unification in co-op history.
The resulting creation of CHS Inc., has returned value to its member-owners across the U.S. through reliable supplies of agricultural inputs, a competitive position in the global grain markets and unprecedented financial returns. Estenson served as CEO of CHS until his retirement in 2000.