The CROPP Cooperative Meat Pools are closely modeled on the CROPP Dairy Pool. Farmers develop pool policy, and beef, pork and poultry producers have their own governing body, the Meat Executive Committee (MEC). The MEC recommends target prices to the Organic Meat Company (OMC) board, votes on policy and works with staff to set production levels. While the MEC has the power to set policy regarding specific production and on-farm issues, the OMC and CROPP Cooperative boards make final policy and pay price decisions. Executive committee membership is elected and regional; however, all members are encouraged to provide input to the committee members and attend meetings.
CROPP Cooperative is a marketing cooperative for certified organic producers. We recognize many livestock producers operate within organic principles, but have chosen not to pursue organic certification. Because certification requires three years of organic practices and record keeping, we encourage interested producers to begin the certification process now, to determine how close they are to qualifying as a certified organic producer.
CROPP Cooperative is not a certifying agency. While we have staff to assist you, each producer is responsible for their farm’s organic certification, and responsible for all certification costs. CROPP Cooperative producers must be certified by a third-party certifying organization approved by CROPP Cooperative and the USDA. CROPP Cooperative and its processing partners are certified by Oregon Tilth. Many states offer grants and cost-sharing programs to help farmers pay certification costs. Check with your state agriculture department to see what programs are available.
Membership and Equity
CROPP Cooperative membership is confirmed when you make your first sale of organic products through the co-op. Producers are required to make a one-time equity investment in preferred shares equaling 5.5 percent of annual gross sales. Producer equity finances co-op operations and provides cash flow.
For example, if you intend to market $10,000 in gross sales, then you will be required to have $550 in equity. As long as you stay at that level of production, you will not be required to make additional equity payments. If sales increase, you must increase equity investment so it remains 5.5 percent. If you double production, to $20,000 per year, you will be required to increase your equity by the additional amount of sales--in this case, an additional $550. Most producers meet their equity requirements by paying a $90-per-head check-off. Producers’ equity is in preferred shares, which are at risk, and bear 8 percent interest . This interest may be paid out or reinvested. Each member has one vote in the affairs of the cooperative regardless of how many shares they own in the co-op.
Most of our beef producers are in the Midwest. To maintain fairness, hauling costs are pooled. This means you pay only the first 30 miles of hauling. The beef pool collectively pays the remainder of hauling costs up to 10 cents per pound on the carcass. Co-op and the producer share additional costs above 10 cents. Distance is a factor in selling cattle through the pool, especially when we are hauling partial loads or hauling long distances. A rule of thumb when it comes to hauling is to have at a minimum three to five head per 100 miles of haul on the truck. We spend a lot of time coordinating production and shipping to keep costs down and reduce hauling expenses for individual producers.
For the fresh and portion cut program, we need beef cattle finished to the USDA Choice grade. This typically means cattle will be finished on a corn-based ration for at least the last 90 to 100 days prior to slaughter. As a rule, cattle finished on grass with no (or minimal) grain will not grade "Choice" and will typically grade "Low Select" to "Standard". Producers with Angus and/or Hereford breeding have the most success in meeting the USDA Choice grade in our program. However, we accept most British breeds as well as cross breeds as long as they are able to meet the Choice grade, have desirable carcass traits and do not contain dairy genetics. Most continental breeds do not fit well into our program as they have larger frames, and use much of their energy to build mass but not necessarily marbling. By selecting cattle with the proper characteristics for our program, a producer is better able to deliver quality cattle and receive our top pay price in return.
CROPP has a ground beef program to produce lean product for our customers. This program is based on cull cow, standard grade dairy cows, and beef cattle. Cattle in this program do not need to be finished on grain. Pasture grasses and forages are the primary feed for cattle in our standard program.
The National Organic Program allows the use of conventional breeding animals. These animals, however, do not qualify for organic slaughter. When it comes time to cull these animals, they must be processed at a conventional plant or another farm. To transition a conventional stock cow or herd over to organic, the animal must maintain an organic lifestyle, eat only certified organic feed, and live on a certified farm through the last third of pregnancy. The calf born from that cow can be certified organic. Producers are also required to complete and return a country-of-origin affidavit stating all animals for slaughter are born and raised in the USA.
Our pay price is a grade and yield price. You will be paid for what you deliver. The graded pay prices are based on evaluation by a trained in-house grader or a USDA grader. The grading system is modeled on the system used by the USDA. Our pay price is locked in and only changes with the approval of the Organic Meat Company Board of Directors.
While we encourage members and potential members of CROPP Cooperative to grow as much of their own feeds as possible, we recognize it is not always possible. CROPP’s Feed Pool facilitates the movement of organic feeds to our membership across the country. Feed is also available from other CROPP members through classified ads in the Organic Trader. The twice-monthly publication is a place to find or sell anything organic and goes out to CROPP members and outside subscribers. For more information about the Organic Trader or our Farm Resources Department, contact the Farmer Hotline at (888) 809-9297.