About CROPP Cooperative
How did the co-op get started?
In 1988, several small family farmers in Wisconsin discussed alternatives and created an organic vegetable marketing cooperative they dubbed Coulee Region Organic Produce Pool (CROPP). In July of 1988, they branched off into an organic dairy program consisting of seven farmers who collectively produced 20,000 pounds of milk every other day. After a year and a half of insufficient sales, CROPP developed the Organic Valley label and began marketing its own products. The cooperative has branched out several times since then with organic eggs in 1993, organic meats in 1999, soy in 2004, and the grower pool in 2008. Reflecting our national farmer membership base, CROPP now stands for “Cooperative Regions of Organic Producer Pools."
Where is the co-op today?
- CROPP has distinguished itself nationally as a leader of organic production, marketing, and farm policy. It was our strong vision and effort that led the charge encouraging the USDA to change its policy and allow the labeling of organic meat and poultry products, an effort that had been 10 years in the making.
- CROPP also worked with partners across the industry to guide the USDA and the National Organic Standards Board as they created and instituted the National Organic Standards, implemented in 2002. George Siemon, one of the original CROPP dairy farmers turned CEO of the cooperative, and Bill Welsh, a CROPP member, both served on the National Organic Standards Board and were instrumental in creating these standards.
- CROPP is the largest organic dairy cooperative in the US. We have over 1,800 member-owners in 34 states, Canada and Australia. We added 202 in 2008, 163 in 2009, 336 in 2010, 212 in 2011, 212 in 2012 and 42 in 2013 and yet we need more producers to meet our customer demand. The co-op employs over 700 folks across the country, with most located in and around rural La Farge, WI.
- We work with dozens of dairy and meat plants across the U.S. and are proud to have our own farmer-owned organic creamery, in Chaseburg, Wisconsin, and our own distribution center in Cashton, WI.
What products does the co-op market?
As a cooperative, CROPP gives organic farmers a unique opportunity to participate in marketing their products through their own labels, Organic Valley and Organic Prairie. Each U.S. region has its own mix of customers. We work hard to promote regional and local production.
- Our product list under the Organic Valley label includes a full line of cheeses, dry and fluid milk products, cream, cottage cheese, vegetables and eggs. An organic soy beverage was introduced in 2004. We also have a substantial selection of meat (beef, pork and poultry) products under the Organic Prairie label.
Our customer base also includes many manufacturers that depend on us for milk and ingredients. These customers buy liquid milk and cream, milk and cheese powder, shredded cheese, butter, eggs, meat, and more. Our products appear in such items as organic pizza, spinach pies, ice cream, broccoli cheese entrees, and baby food.
Is there a market for organic products?
- The market for organic foods has increased at a rate of 5-10 percent in recent years. Currently, organic foods represent four percent of total food sales in the US. The US has now overtaken Europe to become the largest market. Projections predict similar sales numbers in the US as consumers demand food produced without antibiotics, hormones and toxic pesticides. Consumers are eager to support producers who farm organically.
Why choose CROPP?
- Our Organic Valley & Organic Prairie labels are a vehicle to protect the long-term pay price to the farmers and their stability in the organic marketplace.
- Membership in CROPP Cooperative provides brand equity. Our labels are nationally recognized as representing America’s organic family farmers.
- CROPP Cooperative’s producer pools continue to raise the bar, setting higher standards in order to maximize organic potential.
- Our success speaks for itself: we have become the nation’s largest organic farmer cooperative, with a diverse product line and an equally diverse member base. Our excellent reputation gives us power in the marketplace.
- Our brands are our secure home for added value.
- Our successful collective bargaining efforts have brought a stable farmer pay price that has steadily gone up.
- The co-op structure puts the farmer in the driver’s seat.
- Our foundational “Y in the road” policy ensures that farmers are paid first for their production, and the business is run on the remainder, not the other way around.
- We constantly work to strengthen our relationship with consumers and the marketplace.
- Every member farm enjoys the same potential. “We work for the farmers,” says George Siemon, the CEO of CROPP Cooperative. “When it comes down to it, they are the bosses, and we take our direction from them. These folks are passionate about their co-op!”
- We are a cooperative of family farmers, not a cumbersome, profiteering corporation.
True local representation
- Each regional pool of farmers elects a representative to serve on their pool’s Executive Committee, which has areas of authority and makes recommendations to the Board of Directors. The Board governs the co-op, so the voice of the farmer is heard clearly.
Hope for your family farm
- Organic is a new/old model of farming that is not subject to the fluctuations of commodity markets. Low-input, sustainable methods often require less initial investment.
- Our farmers are the face of a new generation of organic farmers. They range in age from 21 to 78, but are, on average, ten years younger than conventional farmers!
- “Keeping farmers on the land revitalizes America’s rural landscape. We are proud to be a part of a new agricultural renaissance,” says George Siemon. “Organic farming is a vision of hope.”
We stand on solid ground
- We aren’t burdened by bricks and mortar. We rely on co-processors to manufacture our products. Our long term investment is in our farmers and our employees.
- Our auditors reflect our confidence that we are in excellent financial health, with very little debt and a solid balance sheet. Our equity-to-asset ratio is 59% which is above average for dairy co-ops. As our Chief Financial Officer, Mike Bedessam, says, “equity equals independence."
- Our fantastic growth reflects the growth of the organic movement, but as we have grown, our efficiencies have increased.
Opportunity is knocking
- There are options for you on your farm. Our impressive product line means the potential is there for on-farm diversification.
- Our devotion to the betterment of our farmers leads us to provide top-knotch member services.
- We are here to assist you as you bring your farm into certified organic production.
CROPP has staff dedicated to helping the farmer with feed allocation, herd health, organic certification and all other aspects of organic livestock production. Our members and staff have many years of practical experience.
- Hotline Support: We have a toll-free farmer line, 1-888-809-9297 that is available to any farmer Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5 pm Central time.
- Milk Quality Staff: We have in-house and field staff to assist you with milk quality questions. Whether it is trouble-shooting a problem or interpreting test results, our quality staff is ready to help.
- Feed Program: Sourcing good quality organic feed can be difficult at times. The staff of our Feed Program source and arrange delivery of organic feeds for members throughout the country. We also offer stable-priced contracts for feed grown by members of CROPP’s Grower Pool.
- The Organic Trader: CROPP Cooperative produces and distributes a “buy, sell & trade” newsletter that is sent to every member and many subscribers twice a month.
- Certification: Certification is the single most daunting task for all new organic farmers. Our certification staff can assist you with the process, whether it is a question on how to fill out paperwork or what products are permissible for use on an organic farm.
- On-Farm Sustainability Program: Our current program involves developing pilot crops for use in biodiesel, allowing our farmers to grow their own organic fuel and feed source: holding on-farm assessments for energy efficiency and renewable energy possibilities and educating farmers on various methods of efficiency and renewables.
- Farmers In Marketing: Our farmer/members are our best ambassadors and spokespeople for our brands. Farmers In Marketing (FIM) provides many opportunities to get involved, including Own Your Community Programs, the Farmer Ambassador Program and the Generation Organic Program. Own Your Community Programs consist of Farmer Event Support, Adopt-a-Store Program (ASP) and Quarterly Farmer Coupons. Contact your Regional FIM Farmer Specialist for more information:
Veterinarians Paul Dettloff, DVM, Guy Jodarski, DVM & Jennifer Burton, DVM
- Dr. Dettloff is a veterinarian with nearly 40 years of professional experience. He now specializes in natural and organic animal treatment methods and is the cooperative staff veterinarian. Dr. Dettloff is one of the most knowledgeable and experienced veterinarians on organic herd-health techniques and is available for consultation to all members of the cooperative. He regularly holds Barn Meetings in all regions of the country to teach organic farmers the techniques of the trade. He is also the author of the book “Alternative Treatments for the Ruminant Animal”, a mainstay for organic livestock producers.
- Dr. Jodarski has quickly established himself as an expert in the organic and biological veterinary fields and we are fortunate to have him as our Johnes and BLV expert. He is available to all cooperative members for consultation on testing and controlling these bovine diseases.
- Jen Burton worked for ten years in human healthcare including rural emergency response, farm rescue and hospital care. Dr. Burton's veterinary interests lie at the intersection of food animal medicine and public health, and include alternative livestock systems, integrative medicine, occupational health for producers and production animals, and ecosystem health.
Ruminant Nutritionist Silvia Abel-Caines, PhD
- Dr. Abel-Caines combines a research background with practical experience on how to balance high forage diets for optimal animal health, milk production and milk nutritional profile. She is available for informal telephone consultation and also conducts educational workshops for members. Dr. Abel-Caines also performs a formal Feeding Ration Review for members who are looking for an independent assessment of their feeding program.
Soils Agronomist Mark Kopecky
- Mark has spent his life in the dairy industry and has been a member of CROPP’s dairy pool for five years. After serving in the Marine Corps, Mark attended college at UW-River Falls where he earned a Bachelor of Science in soil science and a minor in agronomy. He worked two years as a soil scientist with the Soil Conservation Service and then went back to graduate school at UW-Madison where he completed a master’s degree in soil science. After his graduation, Mark worked as an agriculture agent for UW-Extension offering service to farmers throughout Wisconsin regarding soil management and agronomic technique.