Published Date

September 1, 1944

Resource Type

GI Roundtable Series, Primary Source

From GI Roundtable 23: Why Co-ops? What Are They? How Do They Work? (1944)

In order to see what the picture is we need to look at a few figures. There are today 10,450 farmers’ marketing and purchasing associations serving more than 1,500,000 farmers. During the marketing year 1942–43 they did a business of $3,780,000,000. Of them 7,708 are classified as “marketing associations” because more than half their volume of business was in marketing goods produced by their members. The remaining 2,742 are classified as “purchasing associations” because more than half their business was on the buying side.

As a matter of fact, many purchasing co-ops also do marketing, while many marketing associations do buying for their members. The total amount of purchasing done by farm cooperatives its both classes in that same period was $750,000,000. The total value of products marketed by both farm marketing and farm purchasing co-ops was $3,030,000,000.

Dairy products, at close to $1,000,000,000, were by far the biggest item among the farm products cooperatively marketed in 1942–43. Cereal grains, livestock, and fruits and vegetables followed in order, each accounting for snore than $500,000,000 of sales. On the farm purchasing ledger, feed comes first and petroleum products second. Together these two items represented about two-thirds of all products cooperatively bought by farmers. About 20 per cent of all refined petroleum fuels consumed on American farms during 1942 was sold through cooperatives. Other commodities important in cooperative buying are fertilizer, farm equipment, and seed. Groceries, clothing, and household goods are handled by a number of farm purchasing co-ops, but this business accounts for only about 5 per cent of the total.

There are about 1,500 nonfarmer or city consumers’ cooperatives. Their total business is estimated at some $50,000,000 a year. From 300 to 400 are of substantial size and the rest are very small. Their main business is in groceries, meats, and other foods, although clothing, hardware, household furnishings, and books and stationery are also handled. Several consumer co-ops operate gasoline stations. Others offer such special services as cold storage, tailoring, and even beauty treatment.


Service Operations Now Extensive

Insurance is one of the most important services performed cooperatively. Mutual companies now do a major share of all life insurance and probably a third of all automobile insurance in the United States. Some 3,300,000 persons, mostly farmers, are protected against fire loss to the extent of over $12,500,000,000 through about 1,900 farmers’ mutual fire-insurance companies. In addition, 1,700,000 farmers are protected against windstorm loss to the extent of over $5,000,000,000.

Some 10,600 credit unions serve well over 3,000,000 members, mostly city people. Their assets totaled we11 over $340,000,000 and they wade loans in 1942 amounting to $250,000,000.

More than 500,000 farmers in 1943 were being helped to finance their farms by 3,000 national farm-loan associations. Outstanding mortgage loans made through these organizations amounted to more than $1,500,000,000 at the end of 1942.

More than 300,000 farmers were getting short-term credit to raise their crops through 530 production-credit associations. Short-term credit extended during 1942 amounted to $478,000,000. In addition, 1,556 farmers’ cooperative associations with a combined membership of 1,789,423 were obtaining financing service through the 13 Banks for Cooperatives of the Farm Credit Administration.

Some 1,210,000 members get electricity service through 850 “farmer-owned and controlled” power and light associations, helped by credit from the Rural Electrification Administration.

About 500,000 farmers get communication service through 2,000 “switchboard” and 30,000 “single-line” mutual telephone companies in which the total members’ investment reached $25,000,000.

Mutual irrigation companies to the number of 2,500 serve almost 200,000 farmers in Utah, California, Colorado, Idaho, and other western states. Their assets total about $250,000,000.

About 150,000 members get cold-storage locker service from over 500 cooperative locker plants.

Over 100,000 members get medical care from at least 35 associations, several of which operate their own hospitals.

The services of more than 40 burial associations are available to their 30,000 members.

In addition, thousands of other cooperatives supply millions of farmers with such services as: livestock and crop improvement, certified seeds, artificial livestock breeding, grazing, farm and forestry management, pest control, soil terracing, fertilizer test demonstration, and group use of expensive farm machinery.

Next section: How Are Cooperatives Organized?