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Co-ops Help Supply U.S. War Effort; Modernize Operations Rapidly During Post-War Era

Co-ops Help Expand Wartime Food Supply

Some grain cooperatives, anticipating the shortage of storage space brought on by World War II, start expanding capacity. But with harvest season approaching, some plants stand idle for want of motors, copper wire and other supplies needed for the war effort. Wheat is spoiling in North Dakota and Montana fields for lack of storage space.
        Ezra Taft Benson, executive secretary of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, encourages representatives of farm supply and marketing cooperatives and major farm organizations to form a National Committee for Farm Production Supplies. It handles matters related to agriculture and works with government agencies to assure availability of supplies needed for USDA’s Food for Freedom program. This effort involves a major increase in food production from American farms to support the war effort.

These illustrations and photos depict various wartime activities.

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Uncle Sam pulls the railroad right-of-way levers for accelerated shipment of hogs, beef cattle and sheep supplies needed for the war effort.

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Rutherford County (Tenn.) Cooperative Creamery loads cheese for the War Department and promotes war bonds with the artwork on its truck.

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U.S. cooperatives escaped war damage, unlike this Irish co-op that was hit in a 1940 German bombing raid.

Cooperative Business Tops $2 Billion

USDA data shows that 15,000 cooperatives were operating in the United States in the mid-1930s, 295 of which were doing $1 million in business annually while 34 did $10 million in business. Collectively, cooperative business in the United States exceeded $2 billion annually. Co-ops count 3 million members and derive patronage from at least another 1.5 million others. This means that 62 percent of cooperative patrons are members. And only 85 percent of the members are patrons. The challenge, a University of Minnesota extension economist says, is to "convince farmers of cooperative benefits."
        The solution, he says, lies within the cooperative and how well directors know their local operations. Do they depend entirely on the manager, or are directors active in formulating co-op policy? How well do they keep advised of changes in their particular industry and how readily do they adjust to changes? Do they know directors from a neighboring cooperative engaged in the same business? Do cooperatives of a county work together, or are they suspicious of one another? Would acquaintance and confidence result in closer cooperation?

Dairy Co-op Becomes Part of Curriculum

A practical experiment begins in 1940 by Virginia vocational agricultural instructors who are using a local cooperative to supplement an ag marketing course. Their study and tour of Valley of Virginia Cooperative Milk Producers puts zest and interest into classes. Discussions with coop Manager D.E. Shank brings new life to textbook concepts of cooperatives.

Auctions Market More Livestock

The increase in livestock sold at local auctions attest to the growing trend toward decentralized marketing of livestock. A 1937 Farm Credit Administration survey shows 1,300 auctions operating in 37 states, with 67 percent operating in the Corn Belt. More than 4.6 million head were marketed. Livestock volume peaked from 1934 to 1937 and business volume averaged more than $555,000 per year. Marketings in all classes of livestock increased, except for hogs, which were in sharply reduced supply.

Role of Nationwide Cooperatives Debated

The cooperative movement that has taken hold in the United States during the past 20 years or more will continue to develop, according to A.G. Black, acting governor of the Farm Credit Administration. He said the field for nationwide cooperatives: is still an open question; some doubt whether cooperative activities can be successful on a nationwide basis at this time. Others think there may be a place for nationwide cooperatives, but they must be organized and operated somewhat differently than some of those that have been tried in the past. No national marketing program can be developed without giving proper consideration to others in the field. I expect it to be a long time before cooperatives can handle all of a given product from the producer to the consumer."

Magazine covers from the 1940's depicted themes such as co-ops vs. private handlers, tobacco and poultry marketing cooperatives and the growing use of women in farm production. 1940p6.GIF (264963 bytes)

Florida Co-op Council Formed

Representatives of 50 Florida cooperatives have voted to form a Florida Cooperative Council to act as the official coordinating and policy-forming agency representing the various agricultural organizations, state agricultural institutions and grower cooperatives. The council deals with legislative matters related to farm cooperatives, education, organization, research and other matters affecting cooperative development.

Message for Younger Cooperators

A sign in front of Litchfield (Minn.) Creamery Co. not only identifies it as a "cooperative owned by farmers and best market for your milk and cream," but also addresses young farmers. "Your fathers built and supported this creamery. Carry on their good work through your patronage." Manager Emil Oman says the sign reminds the younger generation of "what older folks were up against when the coop was formed in 1903. To that generation, the cooperative spirit which made possible this brick and masonry was almost a religion."

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Trucks hauled logs for the new Doddridge County (W.Va.) Timber Marketing Association to a railyard for loading into boxcars.

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Irene Bliss was the first woman to replace a man as a truck driver for the GLF Cooperative at Ft. Plain N.Y.

Farm Electrification Expands

In 1940, about one-fourth of all farms are receiving high-line electrical service via programs of USDA’s Rural Electrification Administration (REA). Nationwide, about 700 local power projects received REA loans. Nearly 300 were in southern states. These projects were providing electricity for the first time to one-half million farms. Another 1.1 million were slated for electrical service via REA projects under construction. About 90 percent of the systems are cooperatives.

Farm Mortgage Loans 'Paid in Full'

Since its formation, the Farm Credit Administration (FCA) has written "paid in full" on 100,000 farm mortgage loans - more than half of which were made since 1933. Half of these farmers repaid their debt by the late 1930s. FCA officials say that despite repeated drought and low prices in some Midwest states, farmers are making faster progress in repaying these loans than at any time in the history of the program.

Florida Celery Co-op Small But Stable

Although small in membership - it had only 12 members when it organized in 1930 and 15 a decade later - the Standard Growers Association from Seminole County in Florida is going strong as a celery marketing co-op. From January through May, more than 500 carloads of celery make the trip from the field, through the washer and pre-cooler and into refrigerated cars for the trip to northern markets. Sales by 1939 reached about $125,000.

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Penny-pack raisins were introduced to grocers and wholesalers by periodic promotional post cards and letters devised by Sun-Maid Growers of California.  The mini boxes were also used as change for consumer food stamp program purchases.

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MFA at Columbia, Mo., packed its poultry mashes in cotton color-fast bags in  a variety of patterns so they could be used in quilts, comforters, bedspreads, dresses, pajamas, pillow cases, men's shirts and aprons

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California Fruit Growers Exchange used a "sectionizer" to promote Sunkist lemons.

Hoosiers Buy Federated Co-op Way

Indiana farmers have made substantial progress to improve their purchasing power by developing a federated system of local farm supply cooperatives affiliated with the State Farm Bureau. The Indiana Farm Bureau Cooperative Association was incorporated in 1925. By 1939, the association's 60,000 members represented about 30 percent of all Indiana farmers. An equal number were in the process of becoming members. Business volume in 1937 amounted to $14.5 million, one-third of sales derived from petroleum products and one-fifth from feed sales. By 1938, it began making deliveries to the locals in its own trucks. Soon after, it began to manufacture fertilizer in a 40,000-ton mixing plant at Indianapolis and opened a 2,500-barrel-a-day petroleum refinery at Mt. Vernon.

Co-op Fertilizer Business Advances

In 1923, the Federal Trade Commission recommended farmers lower farm production costs by using cooperatives to buy fertilizer. Fifteen years later, the Ohio Farm Bureau Cooperative Association joined with Grange League Federation cooperatives of New York to purchase an 80,000-ton fertilizer factory at Baltimore. The $350,000 facility manufactured low-cost super-phosphate. Construction soon began on Farm Bureau mixing plants at convenient transportation centers in Ohio to help reduce freight rates, which made up nearly 40 percent of the fertilizer cost paid by farmers. The goal was to improve both the supply and quality of the fertilizers at reduced prices and cut the number of analyses. A 20,000ton mixing plant and warehouse costing $125,000 was added near Cincinnati in a joint venture of Indiana and Ohio Farm Bureau cooperatives. The Ohio association supplies 15 percent of the fertilizer used in the state. Ohio farmers in the early 1940s are spending $10 million annually on commercial fertilizers.

Burning Mortgages Co-op Custom

California and Idaho cooperative members have been burning paid-off mortgages as a symbolic gesture to celebrate members gaining complete ownership of their facilities. Calavo Growers, a California avocado growers' cooperative, secured a 10-year loan in 1934 with the Berkeley Bank for Cooperatives. It repaid the loan in only six years and has now reached debt-free status. Dairymen's Cooperative Creamery Association of Boise Valley, Idaho, has also paid off its loan thanks to the $500,000 members invested in their cooperatives during its first 15 years. The business has a net worth of almost $400,000. Achieving such goals took years of advanced planning, said Tom Stitts of the Farm Credit Administration.

Phone Mutuals Serve 500,000

More than 30,000 mutual associations are providing telephone service on a cooperative basis to almost a half million farm homes. Some are large and operate complete telephone systems. Others are informal groups of farmers and rural people who have pooled their efforts and constructed neighborhood lines. In many instances, these cooperatively operated lines provide the only telephone service available in a community.

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Cans of milk are delivered to Consumer-Farmer Milk Cooperative's processing plant at Belle Meade, N.J.
Flower-grower members of Greenhouse Flower Cooperative in New York City worked together to set the pace of their industry.

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The Litchfield (Minn.) Dairy reminded young farmers of the sacrifices their dads made to build the cooperative.
Farm labor associations in New York built camps such as this to house foreign workers.

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Livestock shipping associations, such as this one in Kansas City, had a resurgence in popularity as transportation shifted from rail to trucks.
Developments in transportation, refrigeration and mass buying prompted fruit and vegetable marketing cooperatives to improve handling procedures to assure product quality.

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Cotton samples are checked at North Carolina Cotton Growers Cooperative Marketing Association.  Growers could earn more for better quality if they sold on the basis of grade and staple, instead of the then-industry standard of "before or after rain.".

Co-op Traffic Departments Control Costs

With farmers spending millions of dollars annually on freight charges, cooperatives are finding traffic departments helpful in pruning unnecessary distribution costs and increasing savings for members. Five farm supply cooperatives in the north central states formed a joint transportation committee to discuss creating a mutual to deal collectively with transportation agencies. They are considering various ways to cut costs.

Illinois Co-op Supplies Certified Seed

An Illinois cooperative first formed in 1925 and later reorganized as Producers Crop Improvement Association at Piper City, Ill., has certified the quality of the hybrid seed corn it produces or processes. With financing from the St. Louis Bank for Cooperatives, a modern seed plant has been built and sales of seed corn nearly tripled from 1938 to 1941. Certification is based in part on field inspection and checking for grade and disease. Germination tests are conducted for each bag of seed corn.

Farmers' Cooperative Markets Popular

Public market cooperatives that sell farm produce are gaining in popularity in New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. In New Jersey, Patterson Market Growers Cooperative Association is leaving its small, crowded facilities for a spacious building in a new farmers market. In New York's Albany-Troy market, Capital District Cooperative has built a new market on a 25-acre tract adjacent to a major highway and a railroad.

War Prompts Changes in Co-op Operations

In response to World War II, cooperatives have tightened, expanded or consolidated operations - changes that some say were long overdue. The 860-member Ellsworth (Wisconsin) Cooperative Creamery has reversed a 25-year-old policy under which it produced more than 1.6 million pounds of butter for the New York and Chicago markets. It has now switched to producing nearly 10,000 pounds of edible milk powder in a new plant addition. North Central Kansas Cooperative Creamery added new vats to boost daily cheese production to 4,200 pounds.
        Farm tractors and armored tank parts are moving off the assembly line at National Farm Machinery Cooperative at Shelbyville, Ind. In Louisiana, cooperative cane sugar mills are offering their facilities to crush sorghum to derive molasses for alcohol. A tung oil cooperative in the South has arranged to crush peanuts to produce more oil. A California grain cooperative has remodeled truck bodies to handle more bulk grain and eliminate the need for bags. Eastern fertilizer cooperatives are turning to bulk shipments. Wool co-ops are considering use of cotton gin equipment to bale wool, cut use of burlap, and reduce the shipping space required by bags.
        To conserve rubber and labor, dairy cooperatives are consolidating milk routes and cutting back to every-other-day deliveries. They are also improving co-op publications to keep members informed and thereby reducing the number of meetings and related travel. Some co-ops are promoting more store sales. More local coops have been formed for more efficient assembly and distribution of livestock, fruits and vegetables, poultry and eggs. Eaton (Georgia) Cooperative creamery is selling nearly half its 4,500-gallon daily milk volume to nearby U.S. Army bases. A cooperative formed in Brighton, Colo., is handling scrap iron for the entire county by collecting old machinery, which it dismantles, tags and stores.

Cartoons such as this were used in the magazine to promote good cooperative practices, such as encouraging members to attend and participate in annual meetings.

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Minnesota Cheese Exported to England

Nine Minnesota cooperative creameries operating in a 20-mile radius of Fairbault have temporarily diverted their whole milk supplies to the central cooperative to produce carloads of cheddar cheese eventually destined for England. All were too small to afford installation of needed vats for expanded cheese production which was providing better returns than butter. Local organizations have been kept intact for eventual operation on a peacetime basis.

Two Letters 'Create’ Co-op

On the surface, it appeared to happen almost overnight. All it took was adding two letters to the corporate name to convert 10-year-old Rochester (Minnesota) Dairy Co. into Rochester Dairy Cooperative. The co-op is owned by more than 1,250 farmers. St. Paul Bank for Cooperatives developed the plan. The 140 producers supplying the original company and other area distributors were part of a dairy bargaining association. The conversion was brought on by the need to raise additional capital so the cooperative could expand operations, allowing it to handle 400,000 pounds of milk per day and produce up to 1,200 pounds of dried milk per hour.

Co-op Adds Machinery Service

To help members meet production goals, the Vermillion Farmers Cooperative Association in Louisiana - organized as a rice warehouse in 1920 - has added a machinery repair department, including a replacement parts operation. Members requiring repair service can bring farm machinery into a central plant or request a truck and repair crew to visit their farm. The repair service is generating about $45,000 annually in sales, with savings returned to members at year-end, based on their use of the service.

Florida Orange Concentrate Bound for Yanks

Sixty boxcars of fresh citrus fruit a day are being processed by Florida Citrus Canners Cooperative at Lake Wales. About 40 of those boxcars of fruit are converted into 8,000 gallons of orange concentrate destined exclusively for the United States armed forces and their allies. Total volume of concentrate was expected to reach 800,000 gallons. When reconstituted on the basis of 7 gallons of water to a gallon of concentrate, it will produce 6.4 million gallons of juice with vitamins added. All will be shipped under the coop's Donald Duck brand. Concentrate production has been boosted by the need to reduce shipping space. Concentrate requires only about one-eighth of what fresh fruit requires.

Indiana Co-ops Supply Wood to Save Steel

An Arkansas forest, logging equipment, trucks and two sawmills have been purchased by a subsidiary of Indiana Farm Bureau Cooperative Association. Its member cooperatives have developed a side business, supplying wood for farm buildings and equipment usually made of steel. Hog and brooder houses and feeders are available in either ready-built or to-be assembled form.

Co-op Becomes Major Grain Marketer

With the purchase of 135 country grain elevators and 35 lumber yards, Farmers Union Grain Terminal Association (GTA) at St. Paul, Minn., is now the nation's largest grain cooperative. The acquisition gives GTA 450 facilities it either owns or is affiliated with. Asset value of the new elevators exceeds $2.7 million. Most are located on the Great Northern Railroad right-of-way in Minnesota, Iowa, the Dakotas, Nebraska or Montana. This region accounts for most of the nation's durum wheat production.

Co-op Dividends in New Milk Houses

Members of Wisconsin's Consolidated Badger Cooperative have received "improvement bonds" for their 1942 dividends. Rather than more dollars in their billfolds, they are earning a new milk house, cow clipper, an electric hot water heater or a milk house stove. The bonds can only be used to purchase either equipment or supplies that improve their farm milk-producing facilities, or Badger preferred stock. Directors believe the bonds will accomplish 10 years of milk quality improvements within only three years.

Forest Product Co-ops Blaze Trails

Although limited in number, forest product cooperatives are blazing new trails thanks to wartime needs and the economic value of farm woodlots. Otsego Forest Products Cooperative at Cooperstown, N.Y, has contributed 15 percent to the net income of dairy farms in the region. Farmers Federation in North Carolina effectively markets forest products as an additional service to members. Rock Cooperative in Michigan - formed in 1913 when mines in the area began closing - saw business volume peak in 1930 at 2,000 carloads of lumber valued at $265,000. But by 1943, its marketings produced only $21,000. The cleared forest land is now devoted to income-producing crops and pasture. The cooperative increasingly provides farm supplies. The new Doddridge County Cooperative Timber Marketing Association in West Union, W Va., had net receipts from forest products of $30,000 during the first half of 1945. It plans to operate a sawmill.

Co-ops Should Anticipate Post-War Adjustments

Cooperatives will be challenged to improve their services in the face of the price and other adjustments during the post-war period, predicts O.B. Jensess, chief agricultural economist with the University of Minnesota. "Cooperatives are in the position to supply leadership in working for improvements and in holding in check unwise developments ... Better grades and standards often are needed. Cooperatives can help here and be of service in locating new outlets and new uses for the products they handle."

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Challenge Cream and Butter Association at Los Angeles.  Land O'Lakes at Minneapolis and Farm Credit Administration were among cooperatives using radio shows to promote their products





Doing the 'Turkey Trot' at Ellsworth

Long after the "turkey trot" dance was popular, Central Cooperative Turkey Producers has been formed at Ellsworth, Iowa, and built a processing plant. It serves 50 producers within a seven-mile radius who market 4.5 million pounds of dressed turkey through their cooperative. Savings during the first two years of operations were enough to pay for the total cost of the building and equipment. Members received $1.25 million for their birds in 1946, much of which was spent in the community. The cooperative chips in another $40,000 annually in local operating expenses and nearly $60,000 in employee wages.

Farm Organizations Back Locker Plants

With the backing of major farm organizations and regional cooperatives, locker plant associations are flourishing in many rural communities. Most were concentrated in Midwest, Pacific Northwest and Northeast states, plus Texas and Virginia. Seventy were associated with Land O'Lakes, 9 were promoted by Southern States, another 7 were organized, financed and operated by Farmers Federation of Asheville, N.C., and a few were under the umbrella of New York's Grange League Federation.

Fruit Growers Maintain Uniform Pack

Illinois Fruit Growers Exchange at Carbondale was formed by 15 packinghouses in 1921 that needed an overhead marketing agency to coordinate carlot selling and shipping rather than relying on consignment outlets. Today, in 1948, its 139 farmer members and four association members are doing an annual business of more than $1 million. It handles a major volume of fresh fruits and vegetables under a marketing plan that maintains a uniform pack of No. 1 grade under the Illini brand.

Co-op Thrives in Deserted Mill

Sixteen cooperative gin associations in Texas raised $22,500, 22 local citizens purchased $6,000 in preferred stock and a loan from the Houston Bank for Co-ops covered the rest of the cost to help a new cooperative buy and modernize a cottonseed mill at Wolfe City in 1939. It had been idle for seven years. Eight years later, in 1948, the vision of Ne-Tex Cooperative Oil Mill members has paid off. The cooperative is debt free; $329,000 in cash patronage was distributed in 1948; and membership has expanded to include 49 gin associations serving more than 10,000 cotton farmers in a 60-mile radius of Wolfe City.

Rice Growers Expand Co-op Drying

Marketing cooperatives or their subsidiaries in principal rice-growing states have joined an industry trend by installing artificial dryers and expanding storage capacity as a service to their members. Uniform drying increases the yield of whole rice grains in milling operations by reducing breakage. In 1946, 15 cooperatives with a combined rice drying capacity of nearly 9.5 million bushels were operating in the primary rice growing states. Another 11 driers under construction boosted capacity 62 percent to more than 15.5 million bushels. The number of driers has increased 70 percent.

Grain Co-ops Expand Capacity

In response to a surging demand, many of the nation's local and regional grain cooperatives are modernizing their operations with expanded storage capacity, larger truck scales, faster car loading equipment and automatic scales. They offer grain drying and hedging service, custom feed grinding and mixing, and distribution of seed, fertilizer and petroleum products. In Kansas alone, local grain cooperatives are completing work on 20 new elevators, each with a capacity of 100,000 bushels or more.
        Use of barges on the Mississippi and other major rivers has helped speed the movement of post-harvest grain from the elevators to distant markets. Illinois Grain Terminals has expanded its Illinois River system to five terminals to merchandise more grain from Farm Bureau affiliates. Illinois Grain Corporation, a companion statewide cooperative, provides brokerage and commission services to its locals. end.jpg (5676 bytes)

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