month to honor cooperatives
When farmers in Missouri
wanted to save money on supplies, they combined their orders for baler
twine and saved $400. From that success emerged a cooperative now called
MFA that has become one of the largest ag enterprises in the state.
by the low price of corn, Missouri farmers joined together to form
ethanol cooperatives. These homegrown businesses have succeeded in
raising the price of corn for all farmers while moving us a step
closer to energy independence.
When a mountain climber
find a source for equipment, he convened with 21 fellow climbers
to start an outdoor equipment company called REI. Today that venture
is the nation’s largest consumer cooperative.
power companies would not run their power lines beyond the city limits,
rural people did the job themselves. The electric cooperatives they
built now bring the benefits of electricity to millions of rural
people who, without their cooperative, would be second-class citizens.
is the month set aside to honor the nation’s cooperatives.
Co-op Month, celebrated every year since 1930, is the time to remind
everyone of the benefits of cooperative membership and what makes
these businesses different.
for only one reason: to provide goods or services that other businesses
cannot or will not provide. They bring value to their members by not
only providing goods and services members can’t get anywhere
else, but by also providing better or lower-cost goods and services
that other forms of business do not offer.
serve more than 130 million members. They generate revenue in excess
of $230 billion a year, employ more than half a million Americans and
have total payrolls of more than $15 billion annually.
900-plus electric cooperatives own and maintain nearly half of the
electric distribution lines in the United States, cover 75 percent
of the land mass and provide electricity to 37 million people.
taking the profit motive out of providing electricity, your electric
cooperative can focus on the service aspect. In fact, there’s really
no other reason for an electric cooperative to exist other than to provide
services deemed important by its membership.
This focus on service
made possible the recent dedication of the state’s
first utility-scale wind farm, Bluegrass Ridge near King City.
When the opportunity to buy the output of this and two other wind projects
became available, the member-elected boards quickly recognized the value
of wind energy and jumped at the chance to be part of the project.
a time when Americans have lost faith in corporate America, cooperatives
offer an alternative to the many people who belong to them. Cooperatives
are businesses people can trust because they are businesses they
own and control.
membership has great value, it also comes with great responsibility.
Members must pay attention to the cooperative business they own, attend
the annual meeting, participate in the election of directors, hold
their directors and management accountable for decisions that affect
their cooperative and agree to serve on its committees or board if
The mission of cooperatives
everywhere is the same: Together, we can make the world a better place
in which to live if we stick to the cooperative principles — voluntary
and open membership; democratic member control; members’ economic
participation; autonomy and independence; education, training,
andinformation, cooperation among cooperatives and concern
for community — and truly live by those principles.
Hart is executive vice president of the Association
of Missouri Electric Cooperatives.