The Kansas City Star reports dairy cooperatives, first formed in the 1800s, have helped farmers in hard economic times by keeping them focused on producing milk.

Randy Mooney, a dairy producer and chairman of the board of directors for Dairy Farmers of America Inc., writes cooperatives play an important role letting dairy producers stay focused on producing milk while the cooperative takes care of selling the milk, lobby in the interest of the dairy producers, and provide insurance and other services.

Cooperatives first formed to sell milk at a fair market price, protecting dairy producers from predatory milk buyers. When cooperatives were accused on antitrust grounds, the Capper-Volstead Act was passed by Congress in 1922 to protect them. The Act and cooperative groups remain today, giving dairy producers more bargaining power and allowing them to make a profit.

Despite the benefits of the Capper-Volstead Act, some critics are using the Obama administration’s review of the competition and concentration in agriculture as a chance to prove the Act isn’t necessary. On June 25 in Madison, Wis., the administration will participate in a U.S. Department of Agriculture/Department of Justice joint workshop discussing issues in the dairy industry including the Capper-Volstead Act.

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