A Third is More than One Percent

Phil Kenkel

Bill Fitzwater Cooperative Chair

Oklahoma State University

Approximately one percent of Oklahoma’s population is a member of an agricultural cooperative.  That reflects the fact that only around 2% of the population are farmers and (to their loss) not every farmer is a member of a cooperative.  Given that statistic it is commendable and important that cooperative members continue to work together through their associations and trade organizations to express their views on the issues impacting their farms and cooperatives.

Around one third of all Americans are a member of some sort of a cooperative.  Credit unions account for the largest segment of membership while rural electric cooperatives and consumer retail cooperatives account for many more.  In recent years, local foods cooperatives have been the fastest growing segment.

As we approach another October and prepare to celebrate another cooperative month it is worthwhile to consider the commonalities among all cooperative members.  In the agriculture sector we tend to focus on the issues that impact our production activities and commodities.  Our sister cooperatives probably do not share our concerns on those issues. However, wheat marketing cooperatives and local foods cooperatives are both part of a user owed food system.  American consumers benefit from that cooperative presence. Cotton gins and credit unions are both democratically controlled by their users. Having customers in the wheelhouse makes a difference that we should acknowledge and celebrate.  Farm supply cooperative are owned by fertilizer buyers just as outdoor equipment cooperatives are owned by enthusiasts purchasing sleeping bags. Both sets of customers are benefiting from the cooperative principle of economic participation.

Cooperative month is a great time to celebrate your local cooperative. It’s also a good time to appreciate the other 30,000 cooperative firms operating in the U.S.  On many issues, we have the same goals and when we share our voice, a third is more than one percent!