Attracting directors for cooperatives is getting harder the fewer there are and the bigger they get, says Farmlands chairman Lachie Johnstone as the $2 billion revenue rural services business kicks off director elections.

Three seats are up for election as two long-serving directors step down and a third, Silver Fern Farms chairman and Clutha farmer Rob Hewett by rotation seeks another term.

Leaving the top table this year are Marlborough-based Joe Ferraby, who has been a director more than 20 years, including his time on farm services company CRT which merged with Farmlands in 2013, and Bay of Plenty dairy farmer and orchardist David Jensen.

Nominations close on September 13. Candidates must be shareholders.

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Johnstone, who also chairs the Port of Wellington, said Farmlands was keen to "refresh" its board but the consolidation of cooperatives meant they tended to be increasingly complex which made finding directors tougher.

"There's not the number of cooperatives around ... there's not the training ground there once was," he said.

"We acknowledge we need to do more - we need to lift the standard of governance in Farmlands. We are committed to that and we are investing in it."

To this end, the company had this year joined with cooperative meat processor Silver Fern Farms to run a governance training programme for 24 people over two days.

Farmlands, which returned to profit last year after a $9 million loss in 2015-2016, expected to post another positive result in October, Johnstone said.

Depressed commodity prices and costs around bedding in the merger were responsible for the loss, which was in sharp contrast to the $11m net profit before tax and rebate posted in 2015, and the $23.5m result of 2014. Last year's net profit before tax and rebate was $5.4m.

Revenue, however, held constant at $2b-plus over the challenging period.

Farmlands is one of the country's biggest rural companies with 65,800 shareholders, 82 stores and 1400 staff nationwide.