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Agricultural Co-Operation - the United States


AGRICULTURAL CO-OPERATION - THE UNITED STATES Farmers' Large-scale Co-operation.—In the spacious lands of the world more newly settled, we meet with different economic and social conditions. Great cities are fewer and wider apart. Farmlands extend over broad regions in which masses of cultiva tors possess a common interest in production of a particular kind. Britain in 1921 had fewer than 5oo,000 farms. The United States in 192o included 6,500,000, and these are more specialized. Co operation can gather together 17,00o Californian farmers inter ested in raisins, 67,00o in the Eastern States concentrating on milk, 500,00o in the Middle West dependent on exports of grain. Again, of the 6,500,000, nearly 4,000,00o were owned by the occupiers. The position is similar in Canada where a wheat pro duction of 5o,00o,00o quarters means a mass interest different both in character and in volume from that associated with the 7,000,000 of Britain. So with the wool and wheat of Australia, the fruit of South Africa, the butter and cheese of New Zealand. Add that the farmers are of enterprising, immigrant quality, and nearer to fixed-income conditions than the money-seekers of new industries and commercial cities, and it becomes reasonable to expect forms of co-operation thriving amongst them on a scale comparable with that of consumers' co-operation in Europe.

In 1874 in the United States, the National Grange proposed "working together, buying together, selling together and, in general, acting together for our mutual protection and advance ment," and the name of the American Society of Equity, of 1902, recalls that of the Rochdale Equitable pioneers. But it is the sell ing together which has most appea,ed to American and Dominion farmers. In the United States, especially aided since 1921 by the Co-operative Marketing Act passed in Texas in that year, and soon adopted in 36 States (in New York in 1924) grain, fruit and vegetables, milk, cheese, eggs, nuts, tobacco, cotton and wool are co-operatively sold. Associations under this law (other bodies may be simply joint-stock) are not to make profits for stock holders as such, but only for members as agricultural producers. Membership must be open to all the producers; interest on stock is not to exceed 8% ; and selling for non-members is limited, while the definitive co-operative rule is laid down of no member pos sessing more than one vote. The solid basis of consumers' co operation is potential custom. With farmers' co-operation it is the coming crop; and while the co-operative consumer is morally bound to give reasonable custom, the farmer must contract for the season or for a longer period up to five years. In return, instead of having to borrow on his crop or else wait for ready money until it arrives in full, he receives part-payments in advance ; and finally he obtains a share in the business surplus in proportion to hi% contribution to the turnover. Failures are more numerous than in the more closely-organized movements of Western Europe, and bad management was the confessed reason in nearly 3o% of the failures during 190o-23; but the very great majority of the associations are successful. And these not only help the grower commercially; they also mitigate the farmers' feeling that he feeds the world, yet is exploited in the very process.

American and Other Examples.

The New York Dairy men's League is an example of success. The league, dating from 1921, is a non-profit (all profits to members on the Rochdale lines) and non-stock organization, the working capital being derived from membership fees guaranteed by contracts and sales. The league, the largest association of its kind in the world, collects milk yielded by 750,00o cows, grazing at up to 40o miles from New York, has a complex pooling system, owns refrigerating plants and shops, has research and statistical departments, con ducts great advertising campaigns, and employs 3,00o persons. In Canada the wheat pools of Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatche wan—representing 137,00o farmers—and their joint agency, the Canadian co-operative wheat producers, form another conspicuous example. In 1926, this selling agency handled 190,000,00o bushels of wheat, marketed or held back according to conditions. The pool movement exists also in the United States and in Australia (the English C.W.S. through its bank, assisting to finance the latter), and a joint-committee for these continental areas has existed since 1926. The prospect of a producers' restrictive monopoly might be feared, but the pool leaders deny even its possibility, the organizations tending rather to improve the crops both in quality and quantity.

These examples from North America sufficiently resemble those forms which are found in the Argentine, in Australasia and in South Africa, except that since 1921 the co-operative dairy farmers of New Zealand, without actually tying buyer or seller, have entered into a definite partnership with British co-operative consumers through the C.W.S. and the jointly-owned New Zealand Produce Association. The Overseas Farmers' Co-operative Feder ations of Australia have relations only less close with the same market. (A. W. McK.)

farmers, co-operative, wheat, producers and selling