By Roger Johnson, president, National Farmers Union
October is National Cooperative Month, a point on the calendar when more than 29,000 cooperatives from across the nation undertake some form of educational outreach to ensure that people better understand the cooperative business model and how it can improve life for rural Americans. And cooperatives are more important than ever in rural America, given the fact that agriculture is increasingly highly concentrated on both the supply and demand sides of the equation
Farmers Unions across this great nation, cooperatives are not only considered an effective business model, their founding principles go right to the heart of who we are as an organization. Farmers Union’s roots in cooperatives go all the way back to the organization’s founding in Point, Texas, in 1902, when farmers began to see an increase in both political strength and visibility through strength in numbers.
Farmers Union’s founders responded to a host of business practices that not only placed farmers and ranchers at a disadvantage, but actually pitted them against each other. In response, they organized cooperatives to pool their buying and selling power and other important tasks, including storage warehouses, supply and marketing, purchasing, rural electric and even credit unions.
Today, cooperatives have expanded even further, and in states like Michigan have even teamed up with public schools to provide local, nutritious food for school lunches in the “Farm to School” program.
Since the founding of our organization 113 years ago, Farmers Union members have demonstrated that they not only believe in and belong to cooperatives, the cooperative concept is at the very heart of who we are and how we think as an organization.