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Culture & Agriculture

The Economic Culture of U.S. Agricultural Cooperatives

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Abstract

Two contesting philosophies that shaped cooperative culture during the past 70 years are explored, Edwin Nourse's populist concept of cooperatives as a "competitive yardstick" restoring competition to the marketplace on behalf of farmers and Aaron Sapiro's philosophy that cooperatives should be businesslike, purely economic and preferably large-scale organizations for maximum effectiveness bargaining with processors. As cooperatives expanded over the 20th century, the tension between these two philosophies set into motion cultural constraints on cooperative growth that came to a crisis point with the industrialization of the pork industry. This brought rapprochement with businesses cooperatives had formerly defined themselves in opposition to, resulting in a new phase of cooperative identity, the "valueadded" cooperative.

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