Co-ops for Crops.

first_imgA University of Georgia study released this week shows that Georgiafarmers who grow oilseeds (canola, soybeans, peanuts and cotton)can make their crops more valuable.By building a crushing/refining facility in the state and by forminga cooperative, the study says, farmers can control the raw materialsthey produce all the way to the grocery shelf.The New Way to Look at FarmingIn the past, a farmer only grew and harvested crops. He sold thecrops in bulk to off-farm buyers at wholesale prices. Once theyleft the farm, the farmer had little to do with the crops, whichwere then manufactured into higher-valued consumer products.But now, the move toward globalization is smothering wholesalecrop prices. So farmers should look beyond just growing and harvestingcrops, said George Shumaker, an economist with the UGA ExtensionService and one of the authors of the study.Farmers should look beyond how many bushels or pounds they canproduce per acre, he said. They need to envision how many bottlesof oil, or how many shirts or candy bars they can make from theircrops.The New Generation Co-opRandy Hudson, coordinator of the Emerging Crop and TechnologiesInitiative of the UGA College of Agricultural and EnvironmentalSciences, agrees.”We’re now looking at how the farmer can carry the productbeyond the realm of just production and move higher up that foodchain,” he said.For the past several years, farmers across the country have formedco-ops in hopes of spreading risks and making consumer productsfrom their crops. These new-generation co-ops market their productsto grocery or other retail outlets. This brings the farmer a greaterdollar value, Hudson said.The keys to forming such a co-op, he said, are an adequate processingfacility and timely delivery of the products.Georgia Could Support OilseedFacilityThe UGA study said such a facility could be built and economicallysupported in Georgia. The crushing-refining facility would primarilyconvert seeds from canola and soybeans into oils. But it couldhandle cotton and peanuts, too.To get the facility up and running would cost about $56 million.However, it would add about $172 million in economic activityto the Georgia economy, the report said. Its impact would affectmore than 250,000 acres of farm land. Besides the 53 jobs thefacility would create directly, about 1,100 jobs would be createdindirectly, mostly in rural Georgia.Such facilities use a crushing process to extract oil from theseed. The result is actually two products: oil and meal. The mealcan be used to feed livestock and chickens.”But this is something that will have to be done by the Georgiafarmers,” Shumaker said.”Agriculture is very weak, and we need a way to get moreprofit into farming,” said Marty McLendon, a Calhoun Countyfarmer. “We fully believe value-added products, letting thefarmer put products on the grocery shelf … is the wave of thefuture.”McLendon said he believes the oilseed facility has potential ifgrowers are committed. “There is always risk,” he said.”But I think we’ve got some direction.”last_img read more