Steve Burnet, an Oregon farmer and cooperative leader who helped create CHS Inc., the nation’s leading producer-owned co-op, died January 19. He was 72. A service is planned for next week.
Burnet of Moro, OR, was instrumental in several cooperative mergers, most notably the 1998 unification of former Harvest States Cooperatives and Cenex, Inc., to form CHS Inc., an energy, grains and foods company which today is the largest U.S. cooperative business. In the early 1980s, he helped lead the merger of North Pacific Grain Growers of Oregon with Farmers Union Grain Terminal Association of St. Paul, MN, to create Harvest States.
“Steve’s vision, dedication, quiet leadership and gentle humor played invaluable roles in setting future direction and in helping cooperatives address challenging organizational changes and emerge even stronger,” said CHS Chairman David Bielenberg, a Silverton, OR, producer. “He viewed the cooperative system as a tool essential to producers’ success and helped CHS become a leading domestic and global agricultural and energy company committed to adding value for its U.S. farmer and cooperative owners.”
Burnet began his cooperative service on his local Moro and Sherman County cooperative boards, helping to guide them through mergers that ultimately created Mid-Columbia Grain Growers. He served as a director and officer of North Pacific Grain Growers from 1978 to 1983. Following the 1983 formation of Harvest States, he served five years as chairman of the new organization. After the creation of CHS, he served as its CHS chairman for three years, retiring in 2002.
Burnet operated a wheat and barley farm in north central Oregon’s dryland region, along with a cow/calf and yearling operation with irrigated hay and pasture. He also was active in agricultural organizations, education and government, serving as a director on the Agricultural Co-op Council of Oregon, on the board of the Oregon State University Alumni Association and as a member of the Wheat Growers League and the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association. He served eight years on the Sherman County Board of Commissioners.
He is survived by his wife, Patty, along with two daughters and their families: Kim and Bryan McKinney and granddaughters Meagan and Brianna of Wasco, OR, and Jennifer and Mark Gianotti and grandchildren Jack and Kylie of Silverdale, WA.
Services will be held Friday, February 1, at 1 pm at Gateway Presbyterian Church, The Dalles, OR. Memorials may be directed to Sherman County Athletic Foundation, P.O. Box 191, Moro, Oregon 97039, or Moro Community Presbyterian Church, P. O. Box 2, Moro, Oregon 97039.