Cooperative Month: Agriculture Co-ops Contribute to Economic Growth

 

Across the country, more than 3,000 agricultural cooperatives represent approximately two million farming, ranching and fishery producers. These cooperatives are successful businesses owned by the agricultural producers who are also their members and customers, and they also touch millions of American consumers’ lives every day. Did you know that popular brands like Welch’s, Ocean Spray, Sunkist and Blue Diamond are all cooperative organizations that process, market and distribute products made from the crops raised by their farmer-owners?

Combined, agricultural cooperatives large and small make significant contributions to the national economy and to their local economies as well. In 2013, ag co-ops earned $6.2 billion in pre-tax income, an increase of four percent over 2012. This is the third consecutive year of record income for ag cooperatives, generated by higher prices in some commodities, and higher sales in a few sectors including vegetables and dairy.

Ag co-ops come in all shapes and sizes, from a few member-owners to thousands. The majority, though, are small or moderate in size and in 2013, 33 percent of U.S. ag co-ops had less than $5 million in sales; in contrast, only 33 cooperatives had sales in excess of $1 billion. These large cooperatives include agribusiness and agronomy organizations like CHS, Inc., the largest cooperative in the U.S., and household names like Land O’Lakes, the country’s second largest.

The continued growth of American ag co-ops – which have enjoyed increased revenues for three consecutive years – translates into an increased need for employees: between 2012 and 2013, employment at ag co-ops increased five percent to a total of 136,000 employees. These employees primarily live in rural America, and their earnings and spending contribute to these local economies, helping build vibrant rural communities.

Agriculture cooperatives are only part of the cooperative story in the U.S.  Since Benjamin Franklin created the first American cooperative in 1752, the cooperative model had grown to more than 48,000 cooperatives today. It’s a model that works and that will continue to thrive, including at Farm Credit, which is a network of financial cooperatives dedicated to serving its farmer, rancher and agricultural cooperative borrower-owners.

 

Categories: General Information

FARM CREDIT BASICS: COOPERATIVE PRINCIPLE #4

By Karen Macdonald

 

Cooperatives, including Farm Credit, are organizations structured and managed according to seven guiding tenets established in 1844, formally known as Rochdale Principles of Co-operation. This AGgregator series will explore each of the cooperative principles throughout the coming months.

Cooperatives operate under the principle of autonomy and independence. While the cooperative itself is democratically controlled by its members through the election of the board of directors, it cannot be influenced or directed by any external organization.

Similar to any other business, a cooperative is responsible for its success or failure. Its staff and business operations are focused on contributing to the organization’s long-term success, whether that success is measured as increased revenues or member satisfaction with the cooperative’s services.

Unlike other businesses, though, a cooperative cannot give up control of its own operation. It can merge with another cooperative, but it cannot be purchased by another company. Even partial ownership of the cooperative cannot be sold to an investor as a way to raise capital, as another company might issue stock.  As part of Principle #4, a cooperative may enter into agreements with other organizations, such as raising capital from external sources, but these business relationships must be established on terms that ensure continued democratic control by the members and maintains the cooperative’s autonomy.

This principle of Autonomy and Independence means that cooperatives are reliant entirely upon their own efforts, making all business decisions, including leadership selection and employee recruitment, especially critical. Member-owners remain engaged not only through election of board members but also through the sharing of the cooperative’s profits.

“Cooperatives represent the grand self-help tradition of the United States, where people join together to do something that they can’t do independently of each other, and their first instinct is not to ask the government to do it for them,” says Bill Oemichen, Cooperative Network president and CEO.

 

Categories: General Information

October 2014 Preview: Focus On Cooperative Month

October is national Cooperative Month, an opportunity each year to recognize the value of the cooperative business model and to appreciate the important role that cooperatives play in the daily lives of millions of people, and their economic contributions.

The Farm Credit System itself is a network of cooperatives: four banks and 78 regional lending associations are each structured as a cooperatives, adhering to the seven cooperative principles that include ownership by their customers and governance by a democratically elected board.

Agriculture, the most significant industry Farm Credit serves, is rich with examples of cooperatives, often formed by groups of producers who recognized they could do more together than individually. Virtually every farming sector is represented among the thousands of farmer cooperatives in the U.S.: grain farmers and dairy producers, are joined by sugar, citrus, apple and cotton growers. Some ag cooperatives are small, but others bring us nationally recognized brand names, including Ocean Spray, Welch’s, Land O’Lakes, Florida’s Natural and Blue Diamond almonds. Farm Credit also finances rural infrastructure cooperatives and companies that bring essential services to the rural areas where our farmers and ranchers reside.

Cooperatives touch many people’s lives every day. One young man illustrated this in an essay that detailed how many cooperatives he encountered in a single day: Billy Marshall of Viola, Wisconsin, is one of thousands who rely on cooperatives for everything from electricity to telephone service, financing to food, marketing to farm supplies.

Agriculture and rural America aren’t the only places to find cooperatives: the U.S. is home to more than 6,800 credit unions, financial cooperatives that together have 97 million members. Ace Hardware is a cooperative, owned by individual store operators, as is the REI sporting goods chain, owned by the consumers who shop there.

The cooperative movement has come a long way since a group of 30 farmers joined together in Rochdale, England, to establish the principles and create the unique cooperative business model in 1844. The Farm Credit System was founded in 1916 on the same notion of cooperative operation as the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers and is still going strong nearly 100 years later, thanks in large part to our cooperative ownership model. This cooperative month, as always, we say thank you to our borrower-owners who contribute to our success every day, and to the many agricultural and infrastructure cooperatives who help our industry and our rural communities continue to thrive.

 

Categories: General Information

Farm Credit & Country Mortgages announces promotion of Katrina Davis to Loan Operations Supervisor

Katrina Davis
Katrina Davis joined the Farm Credit & Country Mortgages’ team over 30 years ago. She has taken on multiple roles within that time and has recently been promoted to the new Loan Operations Supervisor for the Harrisonburg Processing Center. Davis is from and still resides in Mt. Solon, VA where she lives with her husband, D.R. and son, Spenser. She is no stranger to the agriculture industry having grown up on a beef cattle farm that is still owned and operated by her father and brother today. Katrina has a strong presence in her community and is proud to be an active member of the Bridgewater United Methodist Church as well as the Mt. Solon VFW Auxiliary.

Farm Credit of the Virginias provides over $1.5 billion dollars in financing to more than 10,000 farmers, agribusinesses and rural homeowners throughout Virginia, West Virginia and western Maryland. Farm Credit is a cooperative capitalized largely through investments made by farmers, ranchers and the rural homeowners and businesses that borrow from them. Farm Credit helps maintain and improve the quality of life in rural America and on the farm through its constant commitment to competitive lending, expert financial services and for facilitating and sharing knowledge and resources through the Farm Credit Knowledge Center. For more information, visit http://www.FarmCreditKnowledgeCenter.com or http://www.FarmCreditofVirginias.com

Categories: General Information

Farm Credit & Country Mortgages Welcomes Adam Davis to the Halifax Team

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Adam Davis has joined Farm Credit & Country Mortgages’ Halifax office as a Loan Officer. Davis is originally from and currently resides in Nathalie, Virginia where he is establishing his wheat and soybean operation. He is a 2010 graduate of Virginia Tech with a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Science and minors in Agricultural Economics and Geography. Adam comes to Farm Credit with previous experience as a crop consultant out of Eastern, North Carolina where he consulted on improved chemical, seed and fertility selection for basic commodity and commercial vegetable growers. Adam has a strong passion for agriculture and is excited to share his passion as he works with others within the industry.

Farm Credit of the Virginias provides over $1.5 billion dollars in financing to more than 10,000 farmers, agribusinesses and rural homeowners throughout Virginia, West Virginia and western Maryland. Farm Credit is a cooperative capitalized largely through investments made by farmers, ranchers and the rural homeowners and businesses that borrow from them. Farm Credit helps maintain and improve the quality of life in rural America and on the farm through its constant commitment to competitive lending, expert financial services and for facilitating and sharing knowledge and resources through the Farm Credit Knowledge Center. For more information, visit http://www.FarmCreditKnowledgeCenter.com or http://www.FarmCreditofVirginias.com.

Categories: General Information

Farm Credit partners with WVU Extension to offer Inaugural State Women in Agriculture Conference

There’s a new resource for West Virginia’s female farmers and farm service providers – the inaugural Women in Agriculture conference, sponsored by the West Virginia University Extension Service. As a partner of the conference Farm Credit is excited to offer a conference with a focus geared towards female agriculturalists. The conference, Nov. 14-16 at Stonewall Resort in Roanoke, West Virginia, will give female farmers the chance to network, learn farm business marketing and finance “best practices” and improve their leadership skills.

 

Activities begin with a pre-conference farm tour on Friday, Nov. 14. Visits to several local farms will show participants thriving farm enterprises providing traditional agriculture products, as well as other methods to grow a farm business through agritourism initiatives like community, school and family events. A networking dinner rounds out Friday.

 

Saturday sessions are divided into four educational tracks – livestock, horticulture, farm finances and farm niches. With more than a dozen sessions ranging from livestock production and liability issues to marketing basics and governmental relations, participants can tailor their conference experience to their specific needs. Be sure to sit in on session three “Financing…A Good Start on the Farm and in Agribusiness” taking place from 1:45-2:35 p.m. presented by Keri Phillips, Farm Credit Loan Officer from Clarksburg. There will also be age-appropriate activities for youths, age 5-18 on Saturday for $15 per child.

 

The weekend is designed to give farmers and farm service providers the opportunity to gain valuable insight and skills from local experts with real world experience—and to use that knowledge to build and improve their own farm operation through effective management practices.

Early bird conference registration runs through Oct.1 and offers discounted rates of $30 for the pre-conference farm tour, $35 for the conference or $55 for both. Registration fees after Oct. 1 are $40 for the pre-conference farm tour, $40 for the conference or $70 for both. The conference registration deadline is Nov. 1.

Lodging is available for an additional $99/night by calling Stonewall Resort at 304-269-7400. Attendees should mention the conference when booking.

To learn more or register, visit http://anr.ext.wvu.edu/ag-women/wia-conference or contact Brandy Brabham, WVU Extension Agent-Roane County, 304.927.0975.

Farm Credit of the Virginias provides over $1.5 billion dollars in financing to more than 10,000 farmers, agribusinesses and rural homeowners throughout Virginia, West Virginia and western Maryland. Farm Credit is a cooperative capitalized largely through investments made by farmers, ranchers and the rural homeowners and businesses that borrow from them.  Farm Credit helps maintain and improve the quality of life in rural America and on the farm through its constant commitment to competitive lending,  expert financial services and for facilitating and sharing knowledge and resources through the Farm Credit Knowledge Center.   For more information, visit www.FarmCreditKnowledgeCenter.com or www.FarmCreditofVirginias.com.

Categories: General Information

Agricultural Cooperative Distributes $4.7 Million to Customers

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Congressman Robert Hurt joins Farm Credit to announce patronage refunds.

Staunton, Virginia – Agricultural lending cooperative Farm Credit recently announced their return of $4.7 million in patronage refunds this spring to farmers and rural residents who use the cooperative’s services in the central Virginia area.

Local farmers and Farm Credit directors recently joined Representative Robert Hurt of Virginia’s Fifth District as he toured local farms in the central Virginia area to discuss issues important to agriculture and to rural America. Farm Credit is returning $4,757,000 in patronage refunds to residents in Congressman Hurt’s district. “Our farms and farmers are facing a variety of political, economic, and environmental issues” said Congressman Hurt. “I applaud Farm Credit for providing support to our rural communities and sharing the organization’s success with them.”

Farm Credit of the Virginias is part of the nationwide Farm Credit system of lending cooperatives serving rural America. Because Farm Credit associations are structured as member-owned cooperatives, they are able to return a portion of their income to their customers in the form of a patronage refund.

Dave Lawrence, president and chief executive officer of Farm Credit of the Virginias said, “I am pleased at the record percentage of this year’s patronage refund and the fact that we have been able to return patronage back to our customers year after year.” Lawrence noted that this patronage refund is equivalent to 24% of the interest earned on a customer’s loan.

“I am proud to be a part of a cooperative that gives its profits back to its customers. When we make money we share it with those who have been loyal to us,” said Don Reese, a member of the board of directors of Farm Credit of the Virginias.

ABOUT FARM CREDIT OF THE VIRGINIAS

Farm Credit of the Virginias provides over $1.5 billion dollars in financing to more than 10,000 farmers, agribusinesses and rural homeowners throughout Virginia, West Virginia and western Maryland. Farm Credit is a cooperative capitalized largely through investments made by farmers, ranchers and the rural homeowners and businesses that borrow from them.  Farm Credit helps maintain and improve the quality of life in rural America and on the farm through its constant commitment to competitive lending,  expert financial services and for facilitating and sharing knowledge and resources through the Farm Credit Knowledge Center.   For more information, visit www.FarmCreditKnowledgeCenter.com or www.FarmCreditofVirginias.com

Categories: General Information
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