Grain News

Cenex Harvest States Names John Johnson to Replace Noel Estenson as CEO

Date Posted: May 3, 2000

St. Paul, MN--The Cenex Harvest States Cooperatives Board of Directors announced May 3 it has named John D. Johnson (left) as president and chief executive officer of the producer-owned co-op. He will succeed Noel K. Estenson (right) who retires June 1.

"John Johnson's experience spans from the farm gate to the international arena," said Steven Burnet, chairman of the board. "Under his leadership, we will continue to build Cenex Harvest States into an organization that returns value to farmers and ranchers by finding new ways to link them to the consumer."

Johnson, 51, said he sees opportunity for farmers and ranchers to benefit, working through the cooperatives they own, as new technology, consumer preferences and global economics change the face of agriculture in the 21st Century.

"Producer-owned co-ops like Cenex Harvest States are uniquely positioned to respond to the evolving marketplace, especially changing consumer demands for foods that have special health or convenience characteristics," he said.

Born in Rhame, N.D. where his family members operated a wheat farm and cattle ranch, Johnson grew up in Spearfish, S.D. He earned a degree in Business Administration, with a minor in economics, from Black Hills State University.

In 1976, he joined the former Harvest States Cooperatives as a feed consultant in the GTA Feeds Division, later becoming regional sales manager, director of Sales and Marketing and then general manager of GTA Feeds.

In 1992, he was elected group vice president of the Farm Marketing & Supply division of Harvest States and was selected as the cooperative's president and CEO in January 1995.

Johnson became president and general manager of Cenex Harvest States Cooperatives upon its creation June 1, 1998. He also serves on the boards of Ventura Foods and the National Cooperative Refinery Association.

He and his wife, Shirley, have three children and reside in Mahtomedi, Minn.

Estenson, 61, was raised on his family's potato and grain farm in Northwestern Minnesota's Red River Valley. He graduated from North Dakota State University with a degree in agricultural economics and began his career as a credit manager with Cenex in 1963. He rose through the ranks to become president and CEO in 1987.

With the creation of Cenex Harvest States, he was named CEO of the new organization. Estenson is past chairman of the boards of CF Industries, Inc. and National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, based in Washington, D.C.

"It has been a privilege to serve this producer-owned system for nearly four decades," Estenson said. "As the global agricultural business changes, there are many exciting opportunities ahead for this cooperative to do what it does best -- benefit its member-owners and customers."

provides a wide variety of products and services ranging from grain marketing to food processing. Through a broad range of working partnerships, Cenex Harvest States also markets and distributes energy products, agronomic inputs and feed to rural America, as well as grain and processed food products to customers around the world.

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