The local co-op is often a place to stop for a cup of coffee, grumble about today’s prices and pick up the next batch of fertilizer. Even more so, the local co-op is where farmers deliver and store their grain, market their crops, obtain field recommendations and purchase inputs. Every October since the 1930s, the American agriculture industry has joined in celebrating this mutually beneficial business model during National Co-op Month.
These member-owned, member-controlled businesses handle and market commodities, help members bargain for better prices and sell farm supplies and inputs. According to the Kansas Cooperative Council voluntary membership survey, released in October 2015, 82,600 voting members belong to 85 local/farm marketing and supply cooperatives in Kansas. Simply put, the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC) stated, “Farmer cooperatives are farmers.”
Outside of farm supplies and marketing, cooperatives also provide credit, insurance, electric service, health care, housing, telephone services and even child care. In fact, nearly one out of every three Americans are member-owners of a cooperative of some type, according to NCFC.
These businesses support the health of local economies by creating jobs, paying property taxes and income taxes and giving to charity. In Kansas, the Kansas Cooperative Council estimated cooperatives in all sectors pay $277 million in payroll and $23 million in property taxes.
The foremost benefits of a cooperative, however, are the earnings returned to the members who own it. As NCFC explained, “farmer cooperatives exist for the mutual benefit of their farmer members with earnings returned on a patronage basis.” Nationwide, NCFC reported that farmer cooperatives returned $613 million in patronage income to members in 2011.
As part of National Co-op Month, Kansas Wheat will highlight farmer cooperatives throughout October. Check back each week for new stories of how farmer cooperatives are investing in the Kansas grain industry, benefiting their farmer owners and contributing to the reliability, quality and value of the Kansas wheat crop each year.
Leslie Kaufman, president and CEO of the Kansas Cooperative Council, discussed National Co-op Month on the Kansas Ag Network’s Ag Issues Podcast on Thursday, October 1. Listen to her interview at http://kansasagnetwork.com/2015/kansas-ag-issues-podcast-10012015/.
By Julia Debes