October is National Cooperative Month. This as an ideal time to highlight the reasons why the co-op model at FCSAmerica works for agriculture.
I was in college when I started farming with my family in southeast Nebraska in 2000. My relationship with FCSAmerica began about the same time, through the AgStart program for young and beginning producers. Access to financing and credit is a lifeline for my family’s farm, just as it is for the vast majority of producers. As a cooperative whose sole mission is to serve agriculture, FCSAmerica is focused on the success of producers rather than the profits of private owners. This means we can finance our operations at competitive rates.
In our rural communities, we’ve all seen cooperatives fail because they adopted a least-cost business model that put patronage payments ahead of product and staff investment. At FCSAmerica, we have made it a priority to remain financially strong by offering great products and hiring outstanding people to deliver those products. Remaining profits are then returned to eligible producers. Since 2004, FCSAmerica has distributed $830 million in cash-back dividends. Farmers and ranchers pay taxes on this patronage. They also invest their dividends in their operations and their local communities.
Our cooperative model benefits producers and rural America in other important ways as well. The Board of Directors is passionate about FCSAmerica’s role in supporting rural organizations and programs through grants, including the Working Here Fund grant. More than 275 non-profit organizations have received Working Here Fund grants to address hunger and nutrition problems, support young and beginning programs, and agriculture education. The cooperative also stays politically connected, advocating at the federal, state and local levels on behalf of producers.
These are some of the benefits that come with ownership in our cooperative. But even producers who aren’t customer-owners gain from our business model. FCSAmerica’s existence helps keep the market in check, fostering competitive interest rates throughout our four states. That is reason to celebrate National Cooperative Month.