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When the problem of securing higher prices to the farmer for his products is discussed, most people at once jump to the conclusion that this can be done only by eliminating in whole or in part the profits of the middleman, or by increasing the cost of farm produce to the consumer. Wherever the charges of the middleman are excessive or illegitimate, they can and will be either reduced or eliminated; but where the middleman is performing a necessary economic function for a legitimate profit, that profit cannot be tampered with unless the farmer stands ready to perform the same function for himself with equal efficiency and at less cost. The Department of Agriculture is not attempting to make the honest middleman the "goat" of our present cumbersome, costly, and thoroughly antiquated system of marketing farm products. That some middlemen take advantage of the farmer is common knowledge. That some farmers also "do their durndest" to take advantage of one another, of the middlemen, and of the consuming public is also common knowledge, although it is only fair to add that the percentage of successful exploiters among business men is larger than it is among farmers. The Department of Agriculture is endeavoring, first of all, to do a constructive piece of work that will eliminate these evil practices. It is trying to get the maximum of scientific efficiency into the distribution as well as into the production of farm products. As a result of a proper organization of the marketing. end of the farmer's work, those middlemen and farmers who are not on the square gradually, but inevitably, will be penalized out of business.

In the past most people labored under the mistaken notion that the best and perhaps the only practical way to acquire wealth was to take it away from some one else. The average middleman believed that the rate of his dividends depended primarily on the measure in which he could reduce the profits of the farmer and add to the price that the consumer could be induced to pay. In other words, until very recently farmers and business

men alike have been led astray by the primitive, predatory economic conceptions. of the nomad and the cave-man. This conception was the outgrowth of the economic conditions of life on our planet. some thousands of years ago, when economic advantage was to be gained only by outfighting or outwitting one's fellowmen. But our slowly developing civilization is a result of the gradual dawning on the minds of men, and the gradual incorporation into laws and institutions, of a new and inspiring truth, namely, that it is easier to gain wealth by coöperating to increase the productivity of nature and of human labor than it is by devoting our energies and abilities to the lamentably. wasteful and harmful game of exploiting one another.

If the new science of agriculture and the movement toward scientific business efficiency can be developed in the light of this truth, capital and labor will become so much more productive than ever before that there will be plenty and to spare for every one who is willing to perform a real economic service to society for a legitimate remuneration. It is high time for both farmers and business men to learn that it is more profitable to work together for their common interests than to squabble with one another over conflicting interests, real or imaginary. This means cooperation.

The true spirit of coöperation is the most vital need of the day in the agricultural world, and indeed in the world at large. Without that spirit no considerable advance along the lines of the new agriculture is possible. Here and there at person will be able to apply some of its teachings on his own hook, but nobody can carry into effect all or even a majority of those teachings unless he is able to work together with his neighbors in some of the many possible varieties of cooperative community effort. munity effort. The cooperative spirit is as necessary to the realization of the possibilities of the new agriculture as is cement or mortar to the erection of a gigantic edifice of brick or stone. I believe that this spirit will prevail, that even now it is

prevailing, and that we are on the threshold of a new and more splendid epoch.

It is not easy to convey with words a sense of the splendor of the vistas that open up as a result of the transforming influence of these new forces upon rural life. It is easy, indeed, to see how increased efficiency in farm operations, genuine coöperation in rural community life, and wide-spread organization for the distribution of farm products may have a tremendous bearing upon the current of American life, urban as well as rural. It is not so easy, however, to set forth specifically all that these things seem to foreshadow. In the light of what already has been undertaken we may dimly project a vision of a new civilization, a more natural and clement civilization than this, a civilization admittedly agrarian and which glories in the fact that its roots in the soil, a civilization in which the essentiality and dignity of agriculture are realized by those who follow it, and recognized and respected by those who follow subsidiary vocations,-as, indeed, all other vocations are,-a civilization in which the wholesome strength of the soil I will avail to heal the canker of unbridled industrialism.


I am quite aware that all this sounds chimerical, that these are, after all, mere generalities, glittering or otherwise. Let me be more specific.

I have in mind a certain town in the Middle West. This town, to the casual observer, is like many another prairie town of its type. It has no unique beauty of situation or of architecture. Its elevator looks like the average elevator; its depot is painted the same color that other depots on the same line are painted; its stores have more or less ugly fronts of brick or frame or stamped steel, as the case may be, just as have the business blocks of hundreds of other little American towns. But this town, in the essentials of its economic life, is unique, wholly different from any other town that I know of. There are indeed a few other towns in this country where there are manifestations of this difference in kind,

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but none, so far as I know, where it exists in the degree in which it exists here.

This is the essence of the difference: the chief store of the town, the elevator, and the creamery are owned jointly by the farmers of the community and operated coöperatively for the benefit of the entire community. The bank is controlled by the farmers of the community and run on a basis as nearly coöperative as the state laws will allow. The store in question dominates the general merchandise trade of the community. It is big and diverse, "handles everything from a needle to a threshing-machine," its manager will tell you with pardonable pride. Groceries, drugs, clothing, hardware, farm implements, virtually everything needed on farm or in home, may be bought at the farmers' store. The elevator handles not merely the grain of the farmers of the community, but also coal, feed, flour, fertilizer, hay, salt, and other bulky commodities.

These enterprises, including the creamery, are run on a straight coöperative basis. The system followed is virtually the Rochdale system, which has been applied successfully throughout the British. Isles. Take the store, for example. Every stock-holder is allowed to buy one hundred-dollar share, and no more, which gives him one vote in the management of the affairs of the enterprise. He gets six per cent. interest on this investment, and in addition a dividend on all his individual transactions with the store. He pays the current market price for everything he buys, but gets back as a periodical rebate ten per cent. profit on his purchases. Thus he gets his groceries and other supplies at virtually wholesale rates, and at the same time the store escapes the odium and enmity that are wont to embarrass the coöperative concern that cuts rates. Furthermore—and this is as important as any other feature of the plan- the non-member who buys of the coöperative store gets something in the way of a bonus, too, five per cent. on all purchases. Thus interest in the coöperative ideal is fostered.

This is agrarian democracy of a high

type, simple, effective community organization for buying and selling. Everybody involved is personally concerned in the conduct of the business. Every division of profits saved is an object-lesson in economics; every meeting of stock-holders is an object-lesson in sociology. There is hope for democratic civilization in such organization.

However, communities like this are rare in the United States, not from any logical necessity, but because of psychological reasons. When one hears of new potatoes being sold by the Long Island producer at twenty-five cents a barrel, and resold to the consumer in New York City, only a few miles away, at thirty cents for a small basket, or when one hears of apples rotting on the ground on farms a few miles from Boston, and the same quality of apples selling to the consumer in Boston at fancy prices, one is apt to jump to the conclusion that there must be some simple and effective device for preventing such appalling commercial incongruities. But there is not, and never has been, any such device. Successful coöperative effort involves a combination of several equally necessary factors. As I have said before, the most important of these factors are psychological.

If the people in a given community have the coöperative spirit, if they appreciate the permanent economic benefits as well as the temporary financial benefits to be derived from coöperation, and if they are interested in the social and moral benefits that are certain to come in the train of a coöperative movement, their chances of success are excellent. If to this appreciation of the higher possibilities involved in a genuine coöperative movement there be added the element of determination or a willingness, when necessary, as it sometimes is necessary, to sacrifice temporary personal advantage to permanent personal and community well-being, the movement has a vastly better chance of


For a year and a half the Department of Agriculture has been carrying on the most scientific and painstaking first-hand

study of the coöperative movement ever undertaken in the United States. While the department's investigations are not yet complete, certain basic facts stand out in clear relief:

First, there are certain vitally important things that a coöperative marketing. society can do for its members better than they can do for themselves. It can assemble berries, garden produce, or whatever its specialty may be, in sufficiently large quantities to have them properly graded and shipped in refrigerated car-load lots by freight instead of by express, and at a comparatively slight cost it can make it worth while for some first-class distributing and selling agency to dispose of them at top prices.

Second, necessity, which is the mother of invention, is also, in the vast majority of cases, the mother of coöperation. Experience shows that as long as farmers are able to make a fairly good profit marketing their own products they are inclined to go it alone. Serious financial difficulties usually have to be experienced before they become convinced that going it alone is not good business.

Third, coöperation is not a magical word that transmutes stupidity and inefficiency into success. Business ability is as essential to successful coöperative effort as to any other form of business enterprise.

Fourth, the surest road to success for a coöperative marketing organization is along the line of a highly specialized business handled as well as is humanly possible. A coöperative society that does a general business is apt, with fatal results, to neglect necessary details in the handling of perishable commodities.

Fifth, small coöperative societies which do not do a large enough business to enable them to employ skilful marketing agents at terminal points generally find it hard sledding unless they are able to connect up with some central coöperative selling agency such as the Ozark Fruit Growers Association and allow it to distribute and sell their produce for them.

Sixth, lack of sufficient capital has been.

a prolific source of danger and disaster to coöperative associations. It is a serious blunder to attempt to start a coöperative enterprise without sufficient permanent capital to see the infant society successfully through its teething period; moreover, members must be willing to allow the association a reasonable commission or expense assessment, in order that it may thrive and develop properly and provide a reserve fund against lean years.

Seventh, very few States in the Union have satisfactory laws providing for the organization of coöperative societies. This is a serious handicap to the coöperative movement, and one which the Federal department is doing its utmost to remedy. For more than a year our experts have been working in conjunction with economists, lawyers, and coöperative managers from the different States in the Union in an attempt to draw up a model state law providing for the incorporation of coöperative societies on a sound financial basis.

While detailed figures are not yet available as to the extent of the coöperative movement among American farmers, it is probably safe to say that despite all the handicaps of the past, cooperative agricultural organizations in this country are doing over a billion dollars' worth of business a year. Manifestly this is only a beginning, as the movement in the United States is still in its infancy; but I think it will be generally recognized that it is a lusty infant, possibly an infant Hercules.

In the past farmers have regarded cooperation as merely a means of protection from the wiles of the middleman, but it is destined to be something of vastly greater moment than that. By means of coöperative effort the farmer not only can protect himself from the superior business ability of sinister business organizations, but, what is of greater importance, can increase his own efficiency enormously both as a scientific farmer and as a business manager, to the ultimate benefit of every one concerned.

Moreover, before the farmers in the country or the business men in the towns

can obtain the maximum benefit from our improved agricultural methods, farmers and business men must learn to coöperate for their mutual advantage. There are some farmers to whom this will sound like advising the lamb to lie down with the lion. They will have a fear that in case it is done, it will not be long before the lamb will be inside the lion. Indeed, for a long time there has been a wide-spread suspicion on the part of the farmer that the city business man regarded the farmers very much as the farmers regard their sheep, as creatures to be sheared, and occasionally even to be skinned. In the past this suspicion has not been without foundation, but the more enlightened among our business men are coming to see that their future welfare is indissolubly bound up with the welfare of the farmer, and that it is not only good morals, but good business, to help the farmer not only to make a scientific success of crop production, but to make as well a business success of crop disposition.

That there are and will continue to be middlemen who are unscrupulous can be taken for granted, that there are and will continue to be farmers who are likewise minded is beyond dispute; but that the more intelligent business men and farmers are rapidly learning that they have more. interests in common than interests that conflict no longer admits of a doubt. The progress toward closer coöperation between the farmer and the business man depends more largely than upon any other single factor upon the attitude taken by the business man toward the farmer in this better farming movement. If the business man will recognize that this movement for the new agriculture is primarily a farmer's movement, and that the business man can help and not hinder this movement only in so far as he learns to play second fiddle to the farmer, to back up the farmer, to offer the farmer advice and assistance, without in any way attempting to control the farmer or the farmer's organization, then rapid progress can be made. If, however, the business man attempts to get control of this move

ment and exploit it by any political or business manipulation, and attempt to dictate who the officers of farm organizations shall be or what their policies shall be, they will cut off the limb on which they are sitting.

It is obvious that in the near future the farmers are going to do coöperatively a number of things which to-day are done for them by the business men of the towns. The movement in this direction is inevitable and irresistible. It is every day gaining in momentum. The wise business man will recognize this fact and trim his sails accordingly. If he is engaged in an elevator business or a creamery business, and it becomes apparent that the farmers of the neighborhood are about to assume that function of the community, he will do well to say frankly to them: "If you think you can handle this business better and more economically than I can, I will sell it to you in a friendly way. There are plenty of other places where I can utilize my capital and trained business ability advantageously." That will be good business, for it is folly to fight the inevitable.

If the business men will take this attitude, they and the farmers will prosper in the future as neither of them has prospered in the past, and the entire nation will prosper with them. I have spoken to bodies of business men in a number of our States, and I find that more and more this reasonable and sympathetic spirit is gaining headway among them. They recog nize that if the American people pull together, there will be prosperity enough to go around; but that if we squabble and squirm, each one striving for a mean personal advantage at the expense of his fellows and the community in general, there will be very little real and abiding prosperity for anybody.

There has been circulated a deal of eloquent misinformation as to the supposed identity of interest between various commercial and industrial groups-between the farmer and the railroads, for example, or the farmer and the banks, the stockyards and various other corporate interests

with which of necessity he must do business. That there is a community of interest between the farmer and these interests does not admit of a doubt, but that there is an identity of interest does not follow. After the farmer, the railroad, the bank, the commission man, the storekeeper, have worked together for their common advantage as far as they know how in the light of the old ideals, there is still left a twilight zone of opportunity where some men by stealth or craft can still profit at the expense of others. It is this commercial war zone that the spirit of coöperation is gradually encroaching


The supposition that natural economic law will prevent all illegitimate profits is one of the strangest delusions ever harbored in the minds of intelligent men. Despite economic laws, reinforced by man-made laws, the cunning and unscrupulous sometimes gain larger profits than do men who conduct their business in a strictly legitimate way. If a man's controlling ambition in life is to pile up unearned millions regardless alike of private rights and public welfare, one could not truthfully tell him that the quickest way to the realization of this sordid dream always lies along the paths of legitimate. business enterprise. We may as well recognize frankly and fully the wide gulf that yawns between men who are trying to earn money and men who are trying by hook or crook to possess themselves of money that other men have earned.

The paramount issue before the American people to-day is not the tariff or corporation control or any of those other political or economic problems which newspapers and politicians discuss glibly; the real issue is not political or even economic. It is moral.

Is the individual citizen willing to produce all the wealth he acquires and to work and vote to render it impossible henceforth for any one, by any financial hocus-pocus, to acquire wealth that others. have produced? That's the issue. Along that line will be fought the battle for control of that twilight zone in business

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