Agricultural Co-ops Overview
Farmer-owned cooperatives are making an impact on agriculture, and have been for a long time and for many American farmers. Today in the United States, almost 2 million farmers are member-owners of 2,106 cooperatives. That means these farmers are not only in charge of their individual farms, but also have a share in ownership and a say in the operations of the larger cooperative business.
The producer cooperative business model most commonly helps farmers to market their products together and to collectively buy the supplies and services they need to operate their individual farms. Marketing together helps scale their access to consumers and may help guarantee the sale of their products. Buying supplies and services together drives the costs down for farmers, thus saving them money and providing them access to goods and services that may not have been available to them individually. This cooperative way of doing business empowers farmers in their independent operations by offering scale and security in the competitive landscape of food production.
What Makes Agricultural Co-ops Unique
In a cooperative, the members are the shareholders, not outside investors. Co-ops make sure the farmers profit from the business. Not only do the farmers own the co-op and help make decisions, but when the larger cooperative business is profitable, each farmer gets a share. In 2014, the 100 largest agricultural co-ops recorded a business volume of $176 Billion – and because they are co-ops, that money stayed with the farmers and did not head to Wall Street.
Producer Cooperatives exist in all areas of agriculture – animal, dairy, and produce – and beyond that the model also can be applied to the production of biofuels and other commodities.
“Farmers own the co-op and help make decisions, and when the larger cooperative business is profitable each farmer gets a share.”
Did you know?
Co-ops build jobs – farmer-owned co-ops have 191,300 employees.
Dairy co-ops handle more than 80% of milk production in America – now that tastes good!
It’s not just a U.S. thing – there are over 1.2 million agricultural cooperatives around the world working to ensure farmers can sustain their living with equitable ownership of their businesses, safe working conditions, and fair wages for the food we all rely on.