How can farmers use co-ops to level the playing field?
Last week’s Department of Justice (DOJ) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) joint workshop on competition in agriculture set the stage for farmer-owned co-ops to show how they promote a more competitive agricultural sector, the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC) said.
"Family farmers across America have built farmer cooperatives that promote competition, bolster farm income and the rural economy, and help to bring transparency to the marketplace," said NCFC President Chuck Conner. "While farmer cooperatives were touched on only briefly in this workshop, I hope that DOJ and USDA will use the future workshops to look more closely at how producers can use co-ops as a tool to level the playing field.
"In addition, we continue to be concerned about rhetoric from some that equates being large in size with stifling competition. A large farmer co-op simply has more member-owners--many of whom have medium to small-sized operations--than a smaller cooperative," Conner continued. "At the same time, the statement made by Christine Varney, the assistant attorney general for the Antitrust Division, that 'with [being] big comes a lot of responsibility' is true and a standard that, we believe, large farmer co-ops in this country meet."
Today's workshop focused on competition issues for crop farmers, especially the issues of seed technology and livestock marketing. As the first of the workshops to be held this year, it also served as the kickoff event, and featured Attorney General of the United States Eric Holder and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack making opening comments. Attendees also heard from Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Congressman Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa), Iowa Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge (D), Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, and Iowa Secretary for Agriculture Bill Northey. Future workshops will focus on the poultry, dairy and livestock industry.
Since 1929, NCFC has been the voice of America's farmer cooperatives. Our members are regional and national farmer cooperatives, which are in turn composed of nearly 3,000 local farmer cooperatives across the country. NCFC members also include 26 state and regional councils of cooperatives. Farmer cooperatives allow individual farmers the ability to own and lead organizations that are essential for continued competitiveness in both the domestic and international markets.
America's farmer-owned cooperatives provide a comprehensive array of services for their members. These diverse organizations handle, process and market virtually every type of agricultural commodity. They also provide farmers with access to infrastructure necessary to manufacture, distribute and sell a variety of farm inputs. Additionally, they provide credit and related financial services, including export financing.