KANSAS CITY, MO (DTN)--Financially beleaguered farm co-op Farmland Industries recently announced Chief Executive Officer Robert Honse had stepped down, effective immediately, and was replaced with general counsel Robert Terry.

Honse, 58, decided to retire after a 20-month stint as CEO and a 30-year tenure with the nation's largest agricultural cooperative, and informed the board of his decision recently, said company spokeswoman Sherlyn Manson.

The board elected to make the change effective immediately and appointed the 45-year-old Terry as his successor, she said.

Manson said Farmland's persistent financial problems did not play a role in Honse's departure, Reuters reports.

"His retirement was his choice. It was his decision," she said.

"But the board (of directors) felt that because of the things we're dealing with, continuity of leadership was very important so they asked Bob to go ahead and make his retirement effective immediately," she said.

Terry, 45, has worked at Farmland for 13 years, most recently serving as Farmland executive vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary.

Farmland--with 600,000 farmer members in 1,700 local co-ops in North America--has been trying to make itself into a food company with branded products like beef. But its capital-intensive, depressed farm-supply businesses, especially fertilizer, has been a drag on earnings, notes Reuters.

In a recent securities filing, the company cited a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing as a possible course of action.

Farmland said April 10 that for the six months ended Feb. 28, it had a loss from continuing operations of $32.3 million, compared with a loss of $20.3 million a year ago.

In the first quarter to Nov. 30, Farmland had earned $3.2 million.

Farmland said Feb. 8 that it had signed a new five-year, $500 million bank loan after reducing its overall debt by $268 million in 2001.

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