CROOKSTON (AP) -- Organizers of a new Minnesota farm cooperative say they have enough members and money to go ahead with the alliance.
About 640 Minnesota farmers and ranchers have bought into FarmConnect, said Brent Sorenson, the interim chief executive officer of the Crookston-based cooperative.
Organizers had hoped to enroll 2,000 farmers and ranchers before the April 1 membership deadline. Still, Sorenson said the co-op's organizers are confident the cooperative will have enough acreage and capital investment to succeed.
FarmConnect's goal is to link its members directly with customers and specialty markets willing to pay premium prices for commodities that have specific qualities.
''We have to sell to produce,'' said Art Brandli, a Warroad farmer and chairman of FarmConnect's interim board of directors. ''Typically we have been producing to sell.''
Area farmers developed the FarmConnect concept to capitalize on shortfalls in the traditional marketplace where processors don't know the origins of commodities and producers know little about processors and their needs, Sorenson said.
''I think this is a perfect example of farmers taking the initiative to deal with the agriculture environment, with the low prices as they are,'' Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Gene Hugoson said during the cooperative's membership drive.
Buyers from throughout the United States, China and other countries have expressed interest in working with the cooperative, Sorenson said.
The cooperative's organizers have raised $1.39 million in operating capital. Farmers paid $500 each to join the cooperative, raising $320,000 in initial membership fees.
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