Essay by PaperNerd ContributorUniversity, Master's October 2001

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Imagine--- No Cooperatives Remember, when you were in grade school and your teacher would ask you to close your eyes and go on an imaginary trip with her? Or she would ask you to imagine how things would be in the world? Well I'm going to ask you to close your eyes today and imagine with me.

Imagine if there was no place to deliver and market your grain after harvest. Imagine if there was no place to mill your grain in to feed. Imagine if there was no electricity in rural areas, or imagine if there was no propane to keep your house warm during the winter. What would our lives be like if there were none of these things? It certainly would not be very convenient, comfortable, or profitable would it? It's not the kind of life most of us would want to live. Fortunately, here in Nebraska we don't have to live this lifestyle, because many of these services are provided by our local cooperatives.

You can receive these services at lower costs or at a greater convenience to the consumer then you could in a larger, more distant town.

First, imagine if there was no place for the farmer to market his grain. Or there could be a place to deliver and market his grain, but it could be miles away and would not offer very competitive prices. Local cooperatives provide a way to market grain, often in a short distance from the farmer and not always at the highest price, but usually at very competitive prices. This provides a check and balance system where, if there would be only one private business in town, that business would be able to set the price at what ever they wanted. With the addition of the cooperative in mind in the small town, the private business must make his prices competitive to the co-op's to remain in business. The cooperatives are not limited to grain. They also provide markets for livestock, dairy products, fruits, and vegetables. For example, Farmland Industries' hog processing plant near Crete, Nebraska buys around two to two and a half million hogs a year. The farmers sell their hogs to Farmland, who then processes the meat and sells it to grocery stores and food chains. Then the same farmers buy the meat from the stores and take it home to their families. Where would farmers market their hogs without this plant? Not only do cooperatives market grain and livestock, but also fresh fruit. Many FFA Chapters sell fresh fruit for Christmas. Much of the fruit is bought through a cooperative. The oranges we sold this year are the Sunkist brand. Sunkist is a large fruit cooperative. Cooperatives link the farmers to the market, which creates a chain and keeps our agricultural trade world going.

Could you imagine getting a product to the market and then not being able to sell it? These cooperatives provide food for our consumers and offer the consumers several different choices of item of brands. They provide the sales campaigns, advertising, and marketing strategies, which help our agricultural products, reach the consumer.

Secondly, imagine there is only one source of supplies for farmers. This would create shortages of needed goods, such as seed and chemicals, during a certain time of the year. Cooperatives provide a place to purchase things like seed, chemicals, fertilizers, and feed. Cooperatives supply all of these products, and much more. They also make available fuels and animal health products. Because these cooperatives are being used they often provide these goods with a much lower cost and better quality. In fact, cooperatives are such an important part of providing farming supplies that according to the USDA reports, the nation's farm-owned cooperatives had $106.1 billion dollars in net business volume in 1997.

Third, imagine if there was no electricity in rural areas. No lights, no heat, and no television. Cooperatives help to make this a reality not just a fantasy. The cooperatives don't just appeal to farmers, but also to the people in the cities benefit from them just as much, because they provide services everywhere that everyone can use. With many different diversified people forming a cooperative, its possible to provide electricity to most of these areas. Most people don't realize insurance agencies, health care, crop consultants, farm managers, and credit specialists are a part of the cooperatives that benefit not only farmers, but everyone else as well. Farmers can not be specialists in everything so the cooperatives help farmers to make better decisions to increase the profitability and product of their operation. Still, other services include custom chemical application and milling grain for feed. These services are ones some farmers can not do on their own. These services add up to 2.3 billion dollars worth of business each year.

Finally, imagine if there were no goods to buy when you need them the most? No batteries for your vehicles or no home heating fuel for when it turns cold. You could get these goods from big city outlets, but wouldn't it be nice to get them from our local cooperative? Many cooperatives do handle these items; this does not only offer a service but also a convenience for the consumer. For example, suppose you need gas for your car late at night and have very little cash in your pocket. But you may have a Car-troll gas card for your local Farmer's Co-op. You simply put the card into the machine and you get gas for your car on credit any time 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. You not only have this convenience, but also have established a line of credit for other products as well. Cooperatives help consumers in many ways by adding a variety of products in the market place. As I mentioned earlier, Sunkist buys fruit from the producers, sells the produce to the supermarkets. Local consumers then buy the fruit; Sunkist is only one brand of fruit that is found in grocery stores. So the consumers not only find the Sunkist brand in the grocery store, they also find products from Mid Am, Land O' Lakes and Farmland.

Imagine if we today had absolutely no cooperatives. That is pretty hard and almost impossible to imagine. Cooperatives are an important part of all of our ways of lives today. They provide four important functions for agricultural today. These functions include, first a market for agricultural commodities, second supplies and resources for producers; third, a large variety of services for producers and finally, they provide consumer goods which we all use everyday. Instead of having to close our eyes and imagine as we did, we can now open our eyes and look at our world of reality, which gives us a great picture because of all the cooperatives available to us in our lives not only today, but everyday Bibliography United States Department of Agricultural, "Cooperative Services" Yahoo, June-1999 Statistics Staff of USDA's Cooperative Services, Rural Cooperatives, "Farmer Co-ops' 19997 Sales Tie Record Net Income Nears Record Level", July/August 1998 Volume 65 Number 4 Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia, "Cooperatives" 1993-1997 Microsoft Corp.