Cooperative Facts and History

From the very beginning of the United States, the cooperative enterprise has been an important factor in the life and livelihood of its farmers and rural communities. Co-ops have helped shape the character, the economics and the social and political life of our state and nation.


What is a cooperative?

A cooperative is a voluntary association of people organized to serve themselves through their own business, with all profits returned to its members.

A cooperative is owned and democratically controlled by the people who use its services.

The earnings of a cooperative are distributed to the user-owners on the basis of how much business they do with the cooperative.

Farmers Union grew hand-in-hand with locally-owned Farmers Union cooperatives that evolved into the taproots of CHS Inc. Over the years, cooperatives have continued their success throughout North Dakota. NDFU continues to find ways to guide, assist, and support locally-owned cooperatives.

To learn more about the essentials of cooperatives, click here.

Cooperative Principles

Open membership
anyone can join

Democratic control
one member, one vote

Limited return on invested capital

Patronage refunds in proportion to each member’s volume of business

Sales at competitive prices

Political and religious neutrality

Continuing cooperative education program

Continuous expansion

Members Make Co-ops Go

C.H. Kirkman, Jr.
Farmers Cooperative Service

A cooperative is a group of people with similar needs – such as power, credit, food or selling products and buying supplies. Members both own and use the co-op.If they expect help from their cooperative – as members, they must make the co-op go and grow.

They must:

  • help get the facts they need to start a cooperative – and help organize it.
  • understand the Articles of incorporation, Bylaws, marketing agreements and other legal papers.
  • choose and elect good directors.
  • attend all member meetings and encourage other members to do the same.
  • At meetings they will discuss problems, voice opinions and ideas, vote and then accept the decision of the majority.
  • Know how the co-op is working, and provide information when asked for it.
  • Keep an open mind about new ways to make the co-op better.
  • Use the co-op. Get others to use it.
  • Do as much business for cash as possible. If credit is extended, pay bills promptly.
  • Help your co-op grow.
  • Accept special tasks when asked.
  • Realize the co-op is the members’ business – not just an outside business.
  • Defend the cooperative when people give incorrect information about it.
  • Look a member director or employee problems with an open mind.
  • Support other affiliated cooperatives.
  • Don’t ask for special favors – such as lower price and more credit.
  • Tell others about the co-op.

The cooperative is yours! Be a proud member! Remember: To make your co-op go – you must keep going to your co-op.