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New 40 Square Cooperative Solutions chair is longtime leader in ag policy

Cole Trebesch, new chair of 40 Square Cooperative Solutions, has held leadership positions with the state's soybean association for the last decade.

Cole Trebesch stands in a field of soybeans with his daughter, Elise.
Cole Trebesch, new chair of 40 Square Cooperative Solutions, with his daughter, Elise, at their farm near Springfield, Minnesota.
Contributed / 40 Square Cooperative Solutions
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BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — A Brown County farmer with leadership experience was named chair of 40 Square Cooperative Solutions.

The board of directors for 40 Square Cooperative Solutions elected Cole Trebesch to preside as chair of the cooperative at its annual meeting last month. Trebesch, who previously served as vice chair, replaced Robby Gieseke as chair.

“I’m humbled and grateful to have the confidence of my fellow directors and the 40 Square team,” said Trebesch. “This organization is the first of its kind, and I’m proud to help lead 40 Square as we continue to grow and evolve.”

Trebesch lives a few miles south of his family's farm in Springfield, Minnesota, with his wife, Miranda, and their son, Oliver, and daughter, Elise. Together with his father, Richard, Trebesch raises corn, soybeans, hogs and cattle.

“We live agriculture day in and day out,” he said. “It keeps us all close.”

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Getting squared

40 Square Cooperative Solutions is a health plan cooperative providing farm families in Minnesota the control to manage their health care, according to its website. It was founded by Cooperative Network, the Minnesota and Wisconsin state trade association of cooperatives and United Farmers Cooperative, an agricultural supply cooperative based in Winthrop, Minnesota.

The cooperative took the form of how it operates today in 2016, after a number of insurance carriers in Minnesota opted to leave the individual market, leaving many residents including those in agriculture without health plan options. In response, the Minnesota legislature allowed for the creation of a cooperative that provides health insurance coverage to individuals in production agriculture, with the cooperative acting as the insurer.

In 2017, 40 Square Cooperative Solutions began sponsoring a joint self-insured plan offered through the 40 Square Health Plan Trust. Nearly 1,000 Minnesotans are currently enrolled in coverage through 40 Square, according to the cooperative.

It's the only cooperative exclusively offering health care plans to the state’s farm families, agribusinesses, cooperatives and ag trade associations.

Biggest input

Trebesch is no stranger to holding positions in ag policy organizations. He's current chair of the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council — a position he's held since 2019 — and also serves on boards for the Brown County Corn and Soybean Growers and the Farmward Cooperative.

“With Cole’s experiences on other boards, we believe he’s the ideal person to help guide 40 Square for the upcoming year and move us forward," said Char Vreize, executive director of 40 Square Cooperative Solutions.

Trebesch came to 40 Square Cooperative Solutions after his own family's health insurance options became limited years ago, and health care coverage was his biggest input cost.

Then-CEO of the Farmward Cooperative, Dave Stuk, suggested Trebesch serve on 40 Square's formative board. He's since been enrolled in coverage through 40 Square as well as served on its board of directors.

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“I like 40 Square because it’s nice not having an insurance company that’s trying to make a bunch of money," said Trebesch. "It’s a co-op to service its members."

Trebesch said that 40 Square's access to the Preferred One Network of health care providers make the cooperative the best fit for his family.

A seat at the table

After graduating with a degree in agronomy from South Dakota State University in 2005, Trebesch returned home to Brown County. He completed the American Soybean Association’s Young Leader Program, before going on to serve as chair of the organization that directs soybean checkoff funds on behalf of the state’s nearly 28,000 soybean growers.

“It’s a great privilege to oversee soybean checkoff funds, and it’s a responsibility I don’t take lightly,” said Trebesch, who was awarded the council's Director of the Year at the Minnesota AG EXPO held in Mankato last month.

He said that serving on the 40 Square board has been a learning experience on navigating the complexities of the health care industry.

“We’re doing something no one’s done in Minnesota,” he said.

In one of his first duties as chair of 40 Square Cooperative Solutions, Trebesch joined Vrieze to meet privately with Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz during the expo. He described the conversation in which the two advocated for expanding affordable health care options in the state as "very constructive."

“So much of health care system depends on our elected leaders enacting policies,” he said. “There are factors that are out of our control, but we also want to make sure that we have a seat at the table when these conversations are happening.”

Noah Fish is a multimedia journalist who creates print, online and TV content for Agweek. He's also the host of the Agweek Podcast.

While covering agriculture he's earned awards for his localized reporting on the 2018 trade war, and breaking news coverage of a fifth-generation dairy farm that was forced to sell its herd when a barn roof collapsed in the winter of 2019. His reporting focuses on the intersection of agriculture, food and culture.

He reports out of Rochester, Minnesota, and can be reached at nfish@agweek.com
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