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Farm Cooperatives Save Jobs and Create Jobs in Renewable Energy

Rural job creation has benefited from agricultural cooperatives that have changed with the times. New marketing cooperatives help save and create sustainable rural jobs.

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The nation’s farmer-owned cooperatives and USDA have a history stretching across 80 years of changing population trends. With the majority of the United States population now living in cities, pressure has been put on rural communities and job creation for non-farm careers.

Rural jobs in the past have been largely in the food and agriculture industry. Today, the business of renewable energy generation or feedstock production is growing rapidly.

The combination of globalization, new technology and changing consumer demands has created a more tightly connected food chain with stronger linkages among producers, processors and retailers.

The Farm Bureau gives credit to the USDA’s co-op role as crucial. In the face of a rapid and dramatically changing agricultural industry, America’s farmers and ranchers consider involvement and assistance by USDA to be crucial.

The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) brought about by the Cooperative Marketing Act supports cooperative marketing.

Shortly after AFBF was formed in 1919, it established a cooperative marketing department and later assisted in creating the national enabling legislation (CMA) that now represents 5 million member families.

Co-ops are big. And they have job creation power.

Early cooperative ventures purchased bulk fertilizers for distribution to purchasers in the counties. Today, efforts are broader, with a lot of emphasis on selling farm productivity at better prices. Farmers will never return to getting 45% - 47% of the consumer food dollar they saw in the 1940s and 1950s if they continue selling as they are today and earning only 20% of those dollars.

Cooperatives can help farmers earn more of the consumer food dollar and relieve Congress of having to assist producers with a yearly subsidy. The difference between federal assistance and marketing is a symptom of the income shortage farmers and ranchers are experiencing in this country today.

NCFC formed a task force to ask cooperative managers and farmer-owners to identify the major challenges these businesses face in helping farmers profitably market their production. They said cooperatives need better access to capital in both credit and investment forms.

Looking ahead, the farmers' future "would be better served in the marketplace if they could move closer to the consumer in terms of marketing their products and services and increasing their share of the consumer dollar spent on food and natural fibers," said David Graves, president of NCFC.

New cooperative strategies such as Farmers Markets and Community Supported Agriculture programs help bring consumers closer to the farmers -- and helps improve that share of the food dollar.

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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