Sanderson Farms, Inc. announced that it held its annual meeting of stockholders this morning in a virtual format. In the formal business conducted at the meeting, stockholders re-elected four Class B directors for terms expiring at the 2024 annual meeting. Management also reported on the Company’s performance during fiscal 2020 and provided an outlook for fiscal 2021. Re-elected to three-year terms were John Bierbusse, Retired Vice President and Manager of Research Administration, A.G. Edwards; Mike Cockrell, Treasurer, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Legal Officer of Sanderson Farms, Inc.; Edith Kelly-Green, Partner, The KGR Group; and Suzanne T. Mestayer, Owner and Managing Principal, ThirtyNorth Investments, LLC.
Other directors, whose terms continue to future years, are: Fred L. Banks, Jr., David Barksdale, Lampkin Butts, Toni D. Cooley, Beverly W. Hogan, Phil K. Livingston, Sonia Perez, Gail Jones Pittman and Joe F. Sanderson, Jr.
In other action at the annual meeting, stockholders approved the following items of business: in a non-binding advisory vote, the compensation of the Company’s Named Executive Officers and the ratification of the selection of Ernst & Young LLP as the Company’s independent auditors for the fiscal year ending October 31, 2021. Stockholders rejected a stockholder proposal to request that the Board of Directors report on the Company’s human rights due diligence process.
Earlier in his remarks to stockholders concerning the Company’s operations, Sanderson said, “Without question, fiscal 2020 was a year like no other for our company, our nation, and the entire world as we faced the extraordinary challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, social and racial unrest, a global recession, and ongoing poultry market volatility. We have faced these challenges, however, with the same determination and resilience instilled in us by our founders in 1947. Over the past year, our board of directors and executive management team have risen to the challenge to protect both the interests of our many stakeholders and the long-term value of Sanderson Farms. We believe our core value of respect for the rights and dignity of every human being; our conservative financial management and our best-in-class operational efficiency have provided a firm foundation to support our business under extraordinary conditions.
“Despite the uncertain environment and fluctuating markets over the past year, our operations performed well. Demand for chicken products sold to retail grocery store customers surged higher at the beginning of the pandemic and remained strong through the end of the fiscal year, as more consumers have been preparing meals at home. However, demand from our food service customers has remained under pressure with the changing restrictions on restaurants and food service establishments and the steep decline in the number of consumers dining out during the pandemic. Our sales mix and production for the year reflect these changing demand trends, but we were pleased to report overall higher sales of $3.564 billion in fiscal 2020 compared with $3.440 billion last year.
“As a critical part of the nation’s food supply, we are mindful of our responsibility to do our best to maintain our production even under extraordinary conditions. At the same time, we understand our obligation to keep our people safe. Our number one priority throughout the pandemic has been protecting the health and safety of our employees, who have continued to produce and deliver poultry products to our customers and contribute to a stable food supply.
“Over the past year, we have witnessed significant social unrest and racial injustice across the nation. For Sanderson Farms, respect for the dignity and worth of every human being has been a core value of the Company since our founding. We recognize that our people are our most important asset, and we are committed to providing our employees with a safe place to work, fair pay and benefits, and equitable treatment both at work and in our communities. We are proud of our record and policies related to diversity, and we strive to be inclusive in every way.
“We are equally proud of our efforts over the past year to manage our operations in an efficient and responsible manner under extraordinary conditions. As we have continued to expand our production, an integral part of our growth strategy has been an emphasis on environmental responsibility. It is vitally important to Sanderson Farms that we not only apply sustainability practices in our own facilities, but also work in tandem with our local communities to protect the environment.”
Sanderson concluded, “We have many reasons to be optimistic about the year ahead for Sanderson Farms. We expect robust demand for chicken products from retail grocery stores will continue, and we are ready to meet this demand with the right mix of quality products. While the COVID-19 pandemic will remain part of our lives, we are hopeful that as more people are able to get a vaccine, consumer confidence will improve, and restaurants and food service operators can begin to resume regular schedules. Our operations are performing well, and we are well positioned to execute our growth strategy with the right mix of quality products and a respected brand, supported by efficient and sustainable operations, exceptional customer service and a strong financial position. Above all, we have an incredible team across our operations. We acknowledge the heroic work and perseverance of our dedicated managers, employees, and contract producers who continue to work hard to meet the demands of our valued customers. Together, we will face both the challenges and opportunities before us with a shared commitment to deliver greater value to our shareholders.”