Friday, May 04, 2018

Wendell Berry Meet Westby Cooperative Creamery

Washington Monthly had a piece on the Westby:
Westby is the exception, not the rule. It’s a holdout from an earlier era when co-ops helped farmers and rural communities keep a much larger share of the nation’s wealth than they do today. Most everywhere else across rural America, the powerful cooperative movement has either faded or, worse, become co-opted by giant monopolies that prey off the very small-scale producers they’re supposed to protect. In that way, they reflect a broader change in the economy. While pretending to represent farmers’ interests, these co-ops in fact dictate prices to farmers just as Amazon dictates prices to book publishers and Walmart to its suppliers. Cooperative Creamery in WI
Wendell Berry writes for the Henry County Local on the recent spate of creameries and distribution channels dropping dairy farmers and includes this:
The person interviewed in these several articles who makes clear and admirable sense is Gary Rock, a dairyman, one of Dean’s terminated, in LaRue County: “He would like to see a base program across the nation that sets production quotas in line with market demands.” He thus sees through the problem to its solution. He is advocating the only solution to the problem of overproduction. Kentuckians don’t have to look far for an example of the necessary solution, for we had it in the Burley Tobacco Growers Co-operative Association. That organization effectively controlled production, maintained fair prices, and gave the same protections to small producers as to large ones. The history of the Burley Association disproves, as its membership conscientiously rejected, the “inevitability” of the destruction of family farms by agribusiness corporations.
Of course Berry is wrong.  Production wasn't controlled by the co-op, but by your faithful USDA/ASCS bureaucracy (operating in conjunction with the co-op).  "Supply management", one term for the sort of program involved, is something Canada still uses for dairy and eggs and maple syrup. We dropped the tobacco and peanut supply management programs after I left, not that there's any relationship. :-)

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