Delivering value to members and communities
In celebration of Cooperative Month, each year Today’s Farmer prints the winning speech from the Missouri Institute of Cooperative’s annual meeting. This year’s winner was Trina Stumpe of the Sullivan, Mo. FFA chapter. Trina is the daughter of Kevin and Barb Stumpe of Leslie, Missouri. She is working toward a degree in Agribusiness Management and a minor in Communications at the University of Missouri- Columbia. After graduating, she plans to move back home and someday raise a family of her own on a small farm. Her advisors are Travis Kramme and Robbie Richter.
John F. Kennedy once said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” This famous quote describes the benefits of an individual contributing to the greater good of his country. The same idea embodies the cooperative spirit. Just as President Kennedy summoned Americans to experience the rewards of taking ownership in their nation, cooperatives invite citizens to experience the benefits of participating in a cooperative.
Cooperatives follow seven principles that the founders created to ensure its members’ interests and well-being were in constant consideration. Co-ops are democratic, member-controlled organizations that express their independence and autonomy. They are voluntary and practice open membership to all in need of their services. All members’ economic contributions are proportionate to the services or product used. Cooperatives educate and train the general public through their members, elected representatives, managers and employees. Not only do cooperatives have a concern for their community, they also practice cooperation among other cooperatives through local, national, regional and international cooperative structures.
Many years ago, cooperatives were created on the same basic principles as our great country—with the people’s best interests in mind. In a cooperative, members collectively own the business. As a result, cooperatives operate their businesses with the kind of integrity that comes from working every day in direct contact with the company’s owner.
Years ago, rural citizens pulled together to establish cooperatives in their area in hopes of reaping the benefits of quality products at reasonable prices. Members still strive to maintain the foundation of these organizations. They actively participate in governing the cooperatives as they were originally designed. Although many improvements and technological advances have transpired since the conception of the first cooperative, the morals, values and principles on which cooperatives were created remain the same. Cooperatives are self-governing institutions run by the members, for the members. They are voluntary organizations that provide open membership to anyone in need of their services. Every member, regardless of their gender, race, religion or financial status has an equal voice in co-op policy and procedure. Since the members share the control, they are able to hold each other accountable for all decisions. As consumers, my family and I find that a cooperative’s mission to provide the best possible services to its members at the lowest costs holds true. Their accountability to members is continuously demonstrated by their customer-oriented approach to daily tasks as well as their open door policy.
Cooperatives are innovative organizations that strive for continuous improvement. They work through local, national, regional and international levels to ensure they are kept up to date with all of the latest news and technology. Electric cooperatives are easily recognized because of our daily need for their services. However, there are hundreds of other services we utilize each day without realizing that they are part of a cooperative. Today over 48,000 co-ops assist their members in banking, healthcare, farming and everything in between. Ocean Spray, MFA Incorporated, Welch’s, and Land O’Lakes are a few examples of other cooperatives in the United States today. Electric cooperatives educate patrons on all aspects of electricity and the new power opportunities that are becoming increasingly available every day. Many utility companies now give consumers an option to pay a surcharge for electricity produced from renewable resources rather than coal, gas, oil or nuclear energy. Some companies are able to construct a generation facility to produce this green electricity on their own, while others enter the open market to buy wind, solar or hydroelectric power from producers. Alternative energy sources bear a higher initial cost. However, to environmentally conscious consumers, the benefits outweigh the expense. Cooperatives use progressing technology to cultivate new solutions each year. The cooperative’s goal is to make the world a better place one step at a time through innovation.
Cooperatives are not large, money-hungry, stockholder-owned corporations attempting to maximize profits at the consumers’ expense. In fact, they are just the opposite. Cooperatives provide at-cost services to their members. They also offer programs such as Farm Safety 4 Just Kids. This program is provided by Farm Credit Services to educate the youth of America on safe farm practices. The Farm Safety 4 Just Kids website is available to all and teaches animal, ATV, chemical and grain safety. They are sure to make learning fun using educational games, puzzles and quizzes. Co-ops also encourage involvement in the community. Our local MFA cooperatives work relentlessly to educate and support the general public. For example, MFA awards scholarships every year to students who plan to further their career in the agricultural field. MFA Incorporated sees that we are the future of agriculture and are more than happy to aid us in our future endeavors. MFA also mails and provides online the monthly magazine you hold in your hands, which educates consumers on the latest issues facing the livestock and agronomic industries. It also provides information on legislative issues such as Proposition B and fresh-from-the-farm recipes.
MFA also supports the Missouri 4-H, FFA, and Young Farmers Associations both morally and financially. MFA’s involvement and commitment to our community is admirable!
I have drawn many parallels between the individuals involved in the inception, preservation, and advancement of cooperatives and our great nation. The co-op method collaborates all components necessary for the success of a strong organization, community, and country. Our lives in this great country have been enhanced by the expertise of our cooperatives and their plan to involve their members. It is now time for us to ask not what our cooperatives can do for us, but what we can do for our cooperatives.