The National Council of Farmer Cooperatives says upcoming Department of Justice/Department of Agriculture workshops on competition in agriculture should recognize the benefits co-ops provide to farmers, rural communities and consumers.
NCFC President and CEO Chuck Conner is hopeful the workshops can help reinforce the benefits of the very foundation of farmer cooperatives - the Capper-Volstead Act.
"Without the limited anti-trust immunity provided by Capper-Volstead, co-ops could not exist," Conner said. "Contrary to what has been said by some, without co-ops there would be dramatically less competition in the marketplace today than what currently exists. Farmers as well as consumers would suffer as a result of that."
Conner says farmer co-ops give individual producers a combined market power that's much greater than a single farmer or rancher could have on their own, ensuring they can compete on a more level playing field with the large, globally integrated companies that dominate the ag sector. In doing so, he says co-ops foster competition and help to preserve family farms.
"There are various size and shapes but family farms still dominate the production agriculture landscape," Conner said. "We like that; that is a great thing that has made us very, very competitive in international markets. But without that ability for those family farmers to come together through their co-ops; to purchase input supplies, to market their products, that family farm system would be in real jeopardy."
To tell the story of the nation's 2,500 cooperatives and the central role they play in preserving the family farm, supporting the rural economy and bringing innovative products to consumers here at home and around the globe, Conner says NCFC has launched the Providing for America campaign.
"Co-ops do a wonderful job out there of providing the food and fiber that is something that Americans take for granted." Conner said. "We have a remarkable food system in this country. We have plentiful food, that food is safe, and consumers enjoy that food for the lowest percentage of their disposable income of any nation on this planet, and co-ops have played a critical part."
Something NCFC wants policy makers, government officials and the American public to recognize and acknowledge.
The first of five DOJ/USDA workshops will take place in Ankeny, Iowa this Friday. Conner says co-op representatives will be in attendance to share the message that co-ops are good for family farmers and result in more, not less, competition in the marketplace.