John Johnson former president and chief executive officer of CHS
John Johnson

ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA, U.S. — John Johnson, former president and chief executive officer (CEO) of CHS, will be one of four cooperative leaders inducted into the Cooperative Hall of Fame on May 3, 2017. Johnson was president and CEO of CHS from 2000-10.

The Cooperative Hall of Fame is the cooperative community’s highest honor. Johnson will be inducted along with Rita L. Haynes, CEO emeritus, Faith Community United Credit Union; Richard Larochelle, retired senior vice-president, National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation; and John and Carol Zippert, cooperative activists, Federation of Southern Cooperatives.

The criteria used by the Cooperative Hall of Fame to evaluate individual achievement are as follows:

  • Demonstrated statesmanship, innovation, personal commitment, leadership, and vision beyond the professional competence and requirements of the position for which he/she was employed to serve within the cooperative sector.  If the individual has served as a volunteer, he/she should have demonstrated the same leadership qualities to advance the cooperative form of enterprise.
  • Achieved identifiable and lasting changes to improve and promote cooperatives.
  • Inspired and persuaded others to act to advance the cooperative system.
  • Recognized for work relating to cooperatives at one or more of the following levels — local, regional, national or international.

Johnson began his career as a feed salesman with GTA Feeds. During the mid-1970s, he worked his way up through the Minnesota, U.S.-based cooperative, which merged with North Pacific Grain Growers in 1983 to form Harvest States Cooperative. By 1995, he was its president and CEO. In 1998, Harvest States and Cenex merged under Johnson’s guidance to create CHS. Two years later, Johnson became the new organization’s president and CEO.

Under his leadership, CHS consistently outperformed most of its public-company competitors and secured its current status as the largest farmer-owned agricultural co-op in the U.S., CHS said. The company’s revenue grew from $8 billion to $40.6 billion during his tenure. At the time of Johnson's retirement in 2010, CHS was ranked a Fortune 100 company. Johnson was also a member of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC) Board of Directors for more than a decade.

Past honorees from CHS and its predecessors include: Emil Syftestad, first general manager, Farmers Union Central Exchange (Cenex); M.W. Thatcher, first general manager, Farmers Union Grain Terminal Association (Harvest States); Noel Estenson, CEO, Cenex, and first CEO, CHS; Jean Jantzen, retired vice-president, Cenex Human Resources and Public Affairs; and William Nelson, retired vice-president, CHS Corporate Citizenship, and president, CHS Foundation.