Salt Lake City, UT, Oct 18, 2010 -- Utah is a land of great co-op and value-added venture development opportunity, which USDA Rural Development is promoting this month. October, 2010 is dedicated as “National Cooperative Month,” by a proclamation signed by Thomas J. Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, in recognition of the vital role cooperatives play in the Nation’s economy and the impact they have on improving economic opportunity and the quality of life in rural American.
“USDA Rural Development in Utah is interested in strengthening and developing Utah’s rural cooperatives to provide increased economic opportunities to farmers and rural businesses,” says Perry Mathews, the Business and Cooperatives Program Director. “By furthering the development of agricultural products, we are securing a future for the next generation as well as providing increased economic opportunities.” Rural Cooperative Development grants, Value-Added Producer Grants and the Small Minority Producers Grants are all tools being used in this effort. October is a great month for people everywhere to learn more about cooperatives and celebrate their accomplishments. Please enjoy reading the following article by Chuck Conner, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives President, found on the USDA Blog site. http://blogs.usda.gov/author/bfrank/
Farmer Co-ops: Taking a Seat at Our Table
The famous chef and food writer James Beard once said, “Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” From our potluck dinners to an after-church brunch, food is the tangible connection between us and our communities. Studies have shown the positive impact family dinners have on the individuals who take part in them.
Despite its importance and necessity in our lives, many Americans have limited knowledge of how food gets to the dining table. Farming has evolved greatly over the decades, with the variety, quality, availability, and affordability of food improving steadily. What may surprise you is that these improvements in food production and supply exist in large measure because individual farmers formed cooperatives to remain competitive in an ever-changing agriculture environment.
For more than 100 years, farmer-owned cooperatives have provided individual farmers with a stake in the marketplace. Farmer co-ops are made up of thousands of individual farmers that work together to succeed in a global marketplace. Whether a farmer has 40 acres of oranges or 4,000 acres of soybeans, co-ops allow farmers to pool their risks and better manage agriculture’s volatility.
Co-ops also provide their members with all of the tools necessary to run successful farming operations, including credit, financing, feed, seed, fertilizer, fuel and other crop production products. Farmers and ranchers sit on, and govern their co-op boards and guide or make all important decisions. This hands-on level of involvement ensures that co-ops are accountable to their farmer-members and the American public.
Some of the most innovative products and recognizable brands on grocery store shelves are co-op creations, providing members with the opportunity to directly participate in the food and fiber system, from the farm to retail. Whether its grains, dairy, meat, fruits, nuts or vegetables, farmers rely on co-ops to help them grow, process, market and deliver Americans’ meals.
And the benefits go well beyond the farm. Farmer co-ops provide 180,000 jobs across America, with a total payroll in excess of $8 billion. Profits of the co-ops are returned to their members and cycle through their local communities, fueling economic growth.
Supporting farmer co-ops means building stronger communities and a stronger America. So this October, during Co-op Month, remember all that farmers and farmer co-ops have done to make your meal possible.
For information on Co-op programs offered by USDA Rural Development that help promote local agricultural markets in rural Utah, visit our website @ www.rurdev.usda.gov/ut, or call 801-524-4322.