Evan Hahn is the Regional Vice President of Agricultural Lending for Farm Credit Mid-America.

Cooperative model holding strong in 2023

By Matt Reese and Dale Minyo

In October, cooperatives around the country commemorated National Cooperative Month and celebrated this year’s theme: “Owning our identity.”

In the current challenging times with inflation and various supply chain issues, cooperatives — guided by a set of shared principles and values — are as relevant and successful as ever. The United States has more than 30,000 cooperatives accounting for more than 2 million jobs and $700 billion in annual revenue. Of those, 1,670 agricultural co-ops generate $300 billion in revenue for American farmers from nearly 10,000 locations.

“Cooperatives have been around for a long time. It’s thriving obviously in ag finance where we’re at, but rural utilities and other areas cooperatives serve still play a vital role in rural communities,” said Evan Hahn, Regional Vice President of Agricultural Lending Farm Credit Mid-America (FMCA). “It sure seems like agriculture and rural areas are where cooperatives have really thrived and are the most prevalent today. We’ve been around for over 100 years now we’re going strong, always serving rural communities and agriculture. I hope we will be here for another 100 years.”

Cooperatives are guided by seven general principles: voluntary and open membership; democratic member control; members’ economic participation; autonomy and independence; education, training and information; cooperation among cooperatives; and concern for community.

“We’ve always been guided by seven overall cooperative principles and they’re all about the members — member owned, member controlled, returning patronage back to our member owners in good years,” Hahn said. “Those principles have been there for FCMA the whole time.”

With the cooperative framework at FCMA, the recent stretch of successful years has returned significant patronage back to members.

“Some people question what patronage is. It’s just the name of the capital that the cooperative returns back to our customers,” Hahn said. “In 2023, our patronage program returned $230 million back to our eligible customers and $60.2 million of that stayed right here in Ohio.”

In addition to receiving patronage, FCMA customer members also participate in guiding the cooperative.

“We’ve got nominating committees — any member can serve on those nominating committees to put up people for board election. Then our board of directors, elected by our customer owners, guides our cooperative,” Hahn said. “One of the cooperative principles is that we are open to all people who are eligible to use our loans and services, so we’re here for anybody that’s eligible to work with us and we’d love to sit down and talk with them and see what we can do together.”

Caring for community is an important component of cooperative principles and a key focus of FCMA. In recent years FCMA has implemented a number of programs to help strengthen communities in rural Ohio and throughout their four-state service area in terms of education, giving back and engaging with customers at every level.

“It’s very rewarding to get in with young farmers on the ground level to give them those educational opportunities. Our Growing Forward educational seminars where we go through their financials and really dig deep show them what those numbers are, what they mean and how it’s going to impact their future borrowing and their future business,” Hahn said. “Whether it is a young farmer wanting to go into those niche areas because it’s a little lower capital investment or a more seasoned farmer we’re working with, we can provide education and knowledge and expertise to give them advice as they look at growing their operations and giving back to their communities.”

For more, visit fcma.com.

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One comment

  1. Through education, charitable giving, and cross-level customer engagement, FCMA has launched a variety of programs in recent years to bolster communities in rural Ohio and across its four-state service area.

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