THE ECONOMIC PAMPHLETEER: Reflections on Cooperation
Keywords:Food Systems, Cooperatives
First paragraphs:When I was growing up in the late '40s and early '50s, the local "farmers' exchange" was where we sold our chickens and eggs and bought feed for our chickens, pigs, and dairy cows. The exchange was operated by a cooperative, the Missouri Farmers Association or MFA. Its jingle on the local radio station proudly proclaimed, "MFA, MFA, it's the profit-sharing way. All agree, plain to see, it's the farmer's friend." I didn't have any reason to doubt its claims.
However, the MFA has long since betrayed its farmer-members' trust by supporting the industrialization of agriculture. During the mid-1990s, the president of the MFA regularly proclaimed that Missouri only needed a few dozen large farming operations, and smaller farmers should look elsewhere for their future. As a young agricultural economist, I had made similar statements. I didn't know any better at the time. The leader of a farmers' cooperative, however, should not have been so naïve — or perhaps uncaring. Economic efficiency is good only insofar as it improves the well-being of people. The large agricultural cooperatives in the U.S. have become virtually indistinguishable from the rest of corporate agriculture...
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