NFU hails cooperatives and the empowerment they bring to family farmers, rural America
WASHINGTON – National Farmers Union joined the cooperative community in kicking off National Cooperative Month. NFU President Roger Johnson hailed the nation’s many and varied cooperatives, highlighting the political and economic might that they have brought to family farmers, ranchers and rural America for more than a century.
“Since the founding of our organization 116 years ago, Farmers Union members have demonstrated that they not only believe in and belong to cooperatives, but also that the cooperative concept is at the very heart of who we are and how we think as an organization,” said Johnson.
This year’s theme is “Co-ops See the Future,” and it highlights the sustainable and inclusive tomorrow that is envisioned by the more than 40,000 cooperatives in the U.S. Johnson noted that Farmers Union shares this vision, and the organization is working to ensure that family farmers and the general public understand the important democratic decision-making process that is employed by cooperatives.
“Co-ops are not just an effective business model,” said Johnson. “They empower individuals, and they connect those that otherwise would not have significant buying or selling power in a marketplace. Co-ops 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 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 cooperative businesses. “Our organization’s founders responded to sundry business practices that not only placed farmers and ranchers at a disadvantage, but actually pitted us against one another,” Johnson said.
After that realization, Farmers Union members went on to organize cooperatives that focused on storage warehouses, supply and marketing, purchasing, rural electric and even credit unions. Today, they’ve expanded even further, and have even teamed up with public schools to provide local, nutritious food for school lunches in the “Farm to School” program.
Johnson noted that the NFU Foundation provides cooperative education in all of its programs. In 2012, NFUF published curriculum on cooperatives, “Cooperatives: The Business of Teamwork.” This year, the foundation published a six-part blog series on the power of cooperatives, and it will provide free cooperative education to more than 1,000 beginning farmers and ranchers during its annual online conference, “Growing for the Future.”
“Cooperatives to this day remain a vital cornerstone of rural American communities, forming the nexus of the rural economy and putting their money and efforts back into their communities,” Johnson said. “As an organization, we are committed to ensure that this smart business and empowerment model continues to help bring increased strength and prosperity to rural America, and we’re delighted that the cooperative spirit is reaching further than ever into new areas and ideas,” he said.
Learn more about NFU’s current involvement in cooperative development and education, as well as other cooperative associations at NFU.org/cooperation.