Cooperatives' gross and net business volumes, from 1979-2011. Click image to enlarge.
Since 1930, America has observed National Co-op month in October and what better way to celebrate the strength and vigor of cooperatives in the United States than to read a new USDA report, which notes that farmer, rancher and fishery cooperatives posted record sales and income in 2011, surpassing the previous record sales year of 2008 by $10 billion. Not only that, cooperatives bested the old income record by $500 million. Net income before taxes for all agricultural co-ops was a record $5.4 billion, eclipsing the previous high set in 2008. Net income was up more than 25 percent, or $1 billion, from 2010. Read more »
Earlier this week, I had the privilege of touring the southern part of Vermont with US Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Kathleen Merrigan.
Agriculture Deputy Secretary Dr. Kathleen Merrigan with Alex Gyori, General Manager of Brattleboro Food Coop.
On Monday, we went from farm to farm along the Route 9 corridor and met with some of the incredibly courageous farm families who are putting their lives back together after Tropical Storm Irene. Loss of land, loss of crops and feed are just a few of the many challenges they are facing with amazing dignity. The purpose of the tour spearheaded by State Ag Secretary, Chuck Ross, was to make sure that those in need were aware of all of the programs USDA and the State had to offer. In addition, he wanted our Washington visitor to see the stunning resilience of Vermont’s farm families. A group that included Bob Paquin, FSA; Vicky Drew, NRCS; staff of Sen. Leahy and Sanders and Congressman Welch also shared their admiration for the strength of these individuals. Read more »
One afternoon in the fall of 2003, 36 consumers and several volunteers gathered in the basement of an Oklahoma City church to sort and purchase products from twenty local producers. They generated $3,500 in sales, and the opening day of the Oklahoma Food Coop (OFC) was determined to have been a great success.
Today, seven years later, OFC has over 3,000 members and processes up to 700 orders monthly. The participating producers – all two hundred of them – generate about $70,000 in monthly sales from 4,000 locally produced products. The organization manages storage space, a warehouse and owns several trucks. It has transformed from a small buying club to a formal food hub. Read more »
As part of the Obama Administration’s goal of doubling renewable energy production by 2012, America’s rural electric cooperatives are stepping forward to develop new, sustainable ways to produce electricity. These efforts are not only good for the environment; they help meet an expanding need for power due to growing rural consumer demand. The Rural Utilities Service (RUS), part of USDA’s Rural Development mission area, is a willing and ready partner in this effort. Read more »
The farmers and ranchers who use its services are also the owners of the nation's cooperative Farm Credit System. Photo courtesy Farm Credit Council
Today’s farms, ranches and agricultural enterprises are more diverse and more specialized. And today’s farms and related businesses require new financial services, more equity and greater flexibility from their lenders if they are to effectively manage their businesses. Producers and rural entrepreneurs of all types need access to dedicated, specialized lenders to meet their complete credit and financial services needs. Read more »
Last Chance Café manager Peggy Tobin shows off a homemade apple pie baked by a volunteer co-op member.
It is an iconic fixture of rural America – the local diner. Not just a restaurant, but a social hub for a community, and when the local café in Sunburst, Montana closed in 2007 it seemed one more nail in the coffin of a small town facing decline. Read more »