Individual farmers cannot consistently and reliably control the price they receive for their agricultural products or the price they pay for the inputs needed to produce those goods. Thus, farmers often form cooperatives so that they can enhance their economic market power. Although there is no universally accepted definition, a cooperative can be defined as a legal business entity created under state law that is owned and operated for the purpose of benefiting those individuals who use its services. A farmer cooperative can serve one or more functions including but not limited to providing loans to farmers, supplying information pertinent to agricultural production, selling inputs necessary to agricultural production, bargaining on behalf of its members, providing transportation services, and marketing agricultural products for its members. Read the full overview.

Note: Recently added resources are posted at the top of the applicable sections.

Major Statutes

Agricultural Adjustment Act, 7 U.S.C. §§ 601-641
Agricultural Cooperatives, 15 U.S.C. § 57b-5
Agricultural Fair Practices Act, 7 U.S.C. §§ 2301-2306
Agricultural Marketing Act, 12 U.S.C. §§ 1141-1141j
Capper Volstead Act, 7 U.S.C. §§ 291-292
Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 12-17
Robinson-Patman Price Discrimination Act, 15 U.S.C. § 13
Cooperative Marketing Act, 7 U.S.C. §§ 451-457
Cooperative association representation 7 U.S.C. § 4508
Discrimination Against Farmers Cooperatives Associations by Boards of Trade, 15 U.S.C. §§ 431-433
Exemption of Farmers’ Cooperatives from Tax, 26 U.S.C. § 521
Farm Credit Act, 12 U.S.C. §§ 2001-2279
Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1-11
Taxable Income of Cooperatives, 26 U.S.C. §§ 1381-1388


Agricultural and Horticultural Cooperatives, 7 C.F.R. §§ 1.199-6
Capper-Volstead Act Regulations, 7 C.F.R. §§ 1.160-1.175
Cooperative Reserve Supply Unit, 7 C.F.R. §§ 1124.11
Internal Revenue Service Regulations, Tax Treatment of Cooperatives, 26 C.F.R. §§ 1.1381-1.1383.1
Internal Revenue Service Regulations, Tax Treatment By Patrons of Patronage Dividends, 26 C.F.R. § 1.1385-1
Internal Revenue Service Regulations, Definitions; Special Rules, 26 C.F.R. § 1.1388
Payments to Producers and to Cooperative Associations, 7 C.F.R. § 1033.73

Case Law

Case Law Index for Cooperatives

Center Research Publications

State Compilation: Formation of Agricultural Cooperatives (NALC Staff, 2022)

Navigating Your Legal Duties: A Guide for Agricultural Cooperative Directors (Scott & Traxinger, 2021)

Forms and Filing Information: Business Organizations (2019)

Considerations for Operating Agreements (Ferrell, 2019)

A Snapshot of LLCs and Farming: How Farm Businesses have Implemented the Limited Liability Company Structure in the Midwestern United States (Bachelor & Hall, 2019)

The Farmer’s Legal Guide to Producer Marketing Associations (O’Brien, Hamilton & Luedeman, 2006)

Legal and Policy Considerations of Investor-Friendly Cooperatives (O’Brien, 2005)

An Overview of Organizational and Ownership Options Available to Agricultural Enterprises:  Part 1Part 2 (Goforth, 2002)

An Introduction to Federal Securities Laws as They Might Apply to Agricultural Operations (Goforth, 2002)

Agricultural Law Bibliography

Introduction   |   Keyword Search   |   Browse Categories

Legal publications on Cooperatives:

Agribusiness Corporations
Corporate Farming (Restrictions on Corporate Farming/Family Farm Preservation)
Organizational Forms for Agriculture (Business Law and Development)

Reference Resources

Department of Justice (DOJ)

Antitrust Division Manual
Policy Guidelines Manual to Merger Remedies

Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

The Farmer’s Tax Guide, IRS Publication 225
The Agricultural Employer’s Tax Guide, IRS Publication 51
Corporations, IRS Publication 542

USDA Rural Development

Rural Cooperative Development Grant Program
Rural Business-Cooperative Service 
Rural Cooperatives Magazine (Archive)
Publications for Cooperatives
Rural Development

Congressional Resources

Dairy Cooperatives: Potential Implications of Consolidation and Investments in Dairy Processing for Farmers (Government Accountability Office, 2019)

Other Federal Resources

Export Trading Company Act of 1982


New Section 199A Deduction Impact on Cooperatives (Christianson CPAs & Consultants)

The Contribution of Farmer Cooperatives to the Kansas Economy (Clymer, Briggeman, Letherman, 2019)

Agricultural Cooperatives: Opportunities and Challenges for African  American Women in the South (Paarlberg, 2018)

History of Cooperatives in the United States: An Overview (Pitman, 2018)

New Federal Tax Bill Includes Helpful Provisions for Farmers, Especially Those Marketing Through Cooperatives (Hoppe, 2018)

Tax Reform Impacts Cooperatives: New Section 199A (Cook, 2018)

The 199A Deduction: A Look at the Qualified Cooperative Dividend (Tidgren, 2018)

The Co-op Farming Model Might Help Save America’s Small Farms (Jolley via Civil Eats, 2018)

Agricultural Cooperatives Around the World (Mercier via AgWeb, 2017)

Trends of U.S. Agricultural Cooperatives (1913 – 2016) (Demko, 2016)

Agricultural Cooperatives (Tortia, Valentinov, Iliopoulos, 2013)

Agricultural Cooperatives: paving the way for food security and rural development (FAO, 2012)

Current Challenges in Financing Agricultural Cooperatives (Barton, Boland, Chaddad, Eversull, 2011)

The Capper-Volstead Act, Agricultural Cooperatives, and Antitrust Immunity (Varney, 2010)

Agricultural Cooperatives I: History, Theory and Problems (King, Ortmann, 2007)

The Economic Culture of U.S. Agricultural Cooperatives (Hogeland, 2006)

Agricultural Cooperatives: A Guide to Complying with Missouri Securities Laws

Cooperatives and Contracting in Agriculture: The Case of West Liberty Foods (IA St. U., 2005)

Cooperatives: Principles and Practices in the 21st Century (Zeuli and Cropp, U. WI Extension, 2004)

A Brief Introduction to Agricultural Cooperatives (OR St. Ext., 2004)

Antitrust Status of Farmer Cooperatives: The Story of the Capper-Volstead Act (Frederick, 2002)

New Generation Cooperative Membership: How Do Members Differ from Nonmembers (Olson, Kibbe, Goreham, 1998)

The Farmer’s Cooperative Yardstick (Williamson, 1998)

Co-ops 101: An Introduction to Cooperatives (Frederick, 1997)

New Generation Cooperatives: External Environment and Investor Characteristics (Cobia, 1997)

How Agricultural Cooperatives Are Taxed (Cook, Ratchford, Griffith, 1995)

How to Start a Cooperative (Rapp & Ely, 1995)

Member Control of Cooperatives: What It Means and How It Is Exercised (Cook, Ratchford, Griffith, 1995)

Understanding Capper-Volstead (Volkin, 1995)

Additional Resources

Committee for the Promotion and Advancement of Cooperatives
Cooperative Communicators Association
Cooperative Network
Cooperatives Posts (Ag & Food Law Blog)
Co-ops: A Key Part of Rural America (USDA)
Database of Cooperative Law (International Labor Organization)
International Co-operative Agricultural Organisation
National Cooperative Business Association
National Council of Farmer Cooperatives
National Farmers Union
National Society of Accounts for Cooperatives
Quentin Burdick Center for Cooperatives (ND St. U.)
The Arthur Capper Cooperative Center (KS St. U.)
United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: Focus on Agricultural Cooperatives (FAC)
University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives
University of California Small Farm Program

State Cooperative Councils

Cooperative Council of North Carolina
Iowa Institute for Cooperatives
Kansas Cooperative Council
Mid-America Cooperative Council
Mid-Atlantic Alliance of Cooperatives
Missouri Institute of Cooperatives
Montana Council of Cooperatives
Montana Cooperative Development Center
Nebraska Cooperative Council
Northeast Cooperative Council
Ohio State University, South Centers, Cooperative Business Development
Oklahoma Agricultural Cooperative Council
Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, Co-op Development Center
South Dakota Association of Cooperatives
Texas Agricultural Cooperative Council
Washington State Council of Farmer Cooperatives

Non-Publicly Available Resources

Anne Meis Knupfer, Food Co-ops in American: Communities, Consumption, and Economic Democracy (Cornell University Press, 2013)