Washington Agricultural Cooperative Development

Following is an outline of agricultural cooperative development in Washington State. This information was gleaned from WSCFC records and other cooperative-related material stored in the Pacific Northwest Agricultural Archives maintained at Washington State University. We encourage readers to offer additions or corrections to this timeline; information may be sent to WSCFC, 625 Delphi Road NW, Olympia, WA 98502 or e-mailed to: wscfc@wscfc.org.

MILESTONES

1898
Skamakawa Farmers Creamery Association, the state’s first cooperative, was formed to assist Southwest Washington dairy farmers in marketing their milk.

1902
Puyallup and Sumner Fruit Growers Association was formed to can and sell members’ produce.

1903
Yakima County Horticultural Union, the state’s first tree fruit marketing cooperative, was formed.

1917
Washington Cooperative Farmers Association, which later became Western Farmers Association, was organized to provide egg and poultry marketing services and farm supplies to its members.

1920
The state’s first grain cooperative, Washington Wheat Growers Association, was formed under the patronage of Farmers Union.

1920
RCW 24.32, the state’s first Agricultural Marketing Act, passed the Legislature and became law.

1922
The federal Capper-Volstead Act, which gave farmers the ability to organize and set commodity prices without transgressing federal anti-trust laws.

1925
The Spokane Flower Growers Association organized and began offering marketing services to its members.

1931
Washington State Agricultural Council, the state’s first association of cooperatives, was organized.

1936
Washington State Cooperative Council, WSCFC’s predecessor organization, organized. It was housed at the Western Washington Experiment Station at Puyallup. Founding members, which are still active or have successor organizations, include:

Pacific Supply Cooperative, Western Farmers Association, Grange Cooperative Wholesale, which have become part of Cenex.

North Pacific Grain Growers, now Harvest States Cooperatives.

Skookum, Inc., now merged with Blue Bird, Inc., a tree fruit cooperative in Wenatchee.

Yakima Fruit Growers, which has become Snokist Growers.

Northwest Dairymen’s Association.

Blue Star Growers, a tree fruit cooperative in Cashmere.

Peshastin Fruit Growers, located in Peshastin.

Chief Tonasket Growers, a tree fruit cooperative in Tonasket.

1936
More than 70 purchasing (farm supply) cooperatives had formed, most of which were affiiliated with Grange Supply Wholesale.

1945
Washington State Cooperative Council opened an office and changed its name to Washington State Council of Farmer Cooperatives (WSCFC), to mirror the name of the National Council of Farmer cooperatives.

1950
Cooperatives’ successes could be measured in numbers. In Washington, there were: 17,500 dairy cooperative members, 21 dairy cooperatives and 41 fruit cooperatives.

1951
Marketing cooperatives in Washington number 125 and 75 purchasing (farm supply) cooperatives exist. Total business volume of ag cooperatives was estimated at $280 million; gross farm income equaled $645 million.

1953
WSCFC incorporated.

1986
Gross sales of farmer cooperatives equaled $2.2 billion, whereas farm gate income was $3.3 billion.

1986
WSCFC celebrates 50 years of service to the state’s agricultural cooperatives.

1989
The state’s two statutes governing cooperatives were combined and modernized by the Legislature in the form of RCW 23.86.

1995
Cooperative numbers changed dramatically from 1950, with only two dairy cooperatives, 31 farm supply companies, 25 grain cooperatives, nine regional cooperatives, 23 fruit and vegetable cooperatives and four service cooperatives headquartered in Washington. Cooperatives’ business volume in 1995 was $3.3 billion.