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

Capper Volstead Act, 7 U.S.C. §§ 291-292

Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1-11

Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 12-17

Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C. § 521

Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C. §§ 1381-1388

Agricultural Fair Practices Act, 7 U.S.C. §§ 2301-2306

Cooperative Marketing Act, 7 U.S.C. §§ 451-457

Agricultural Marketing Act, 12 U.S.C. §§ 1141-1141j

Agricultural Adjustment Act, 7 U.S.C. §§ 601-659

Farm Credit Act, 12 U.S.C. §§ 2001-2279

Discrimination Against Farmers Cooperatives Associations by Boards of Trade, 15 U.S.C. §§ 431-433


Internal Revenue Service Regulations, Tax Treatment of Cooperatives, 26 C.F.R. §§ 1.1381-1.1383.1

Internal Revenue Service Regulations, Tax Treatment of Cooperatives, 26 C.F.R. § 1.1385.1

Internal Revenue Service Regulations, Tax Treatment of Cooperatives, 26 C.F.R. § 1.1388

Capper-Volstead Act Regulations, 7 C.F.R. §§ 1.160-1.175

Federal Register Rules Open for Comment

Case Law

Case Law Index for Cooperatives

Center Research Publications

Forms and Filing Information: Business Organizations (2019)

Biofuels: Policy and Business Organization Issues (O’Brien, 2006)

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

Hedge to Arrive Contracts: Futures or Forwards (Gokhalé, 2005)

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

Reference Resources

Department of Justice (DOJ)

Antitrust Division Manual
Policy Guidelines Manual to Merger Remedies

Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

IRC section 521 Exempt Farmers’ Cooperatives,
The Farmer’s Tax Guide, IRS Publication 225
The Agricultural Employer’s Guide, IRS Publication 51
Corporations, Publication 542

USDA Rural Development

Rural Cooperative Development Grant Program 101 (USDA, 2019)
Rural Business-Cooperative Service 
Rural Cooperatives Publications Archive
Publications for Cooperatives
Rural Development Farm Bill Page
Problems and Issues Facing Farmer Cooperatives (Gray and Kraenzle, RMS, 2002)

Congressional Resources

Reports on Cooperatives (Government Accountability Office)

Other Federal Resources

Export Trading Company Act of 1982


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

New Federal Tax Bill Includes helpful Provisions for Farmers, especially those Marketing through Cooperatives (Hoppe, 2018)

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

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

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

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

Cooperative Programs (1998)

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)

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

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

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

How to Start a Cooperative (Rapp & Ely, 1996)

The Farmer’s Cooperative Yardstick (Williamson, 1998)

Understanding Capper-Volstead (Volkin, 1995)

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

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

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

Additional Resources

Cooperatives Posts (Ag & Food Law Blog)

Co-ops: A Key Part of Rural America (USDA, 2019)

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

National Farmers Union

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

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

University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives

Center for Cooperatives (U. WI)

Committee for the Promotion and Advancement of Cooperatives

Database of Cooperative Law (International Labor Organization)

International Co-operative Agricultural Organisation

National Cooperative Business Association

The Arthur Capper Cooperative Center (KS St. U.)

The Cooperative Communicators Association

National Society of Accounts for Cooperatives

Quentin Burdick Center for Cooperatives (ND St. U.)

National Council of Farmer Cooperatives

Cooperative Network

Northwest Agricultural Cooperative Council

Iowa Institute for Cooperatives

Kansas 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 (Cornell U.)

Ohio Cooperative Development Center

Cooperative Development Center for the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union

South Dakota Association of Cooperatives

Washington State Council of Farmer Cooperatives

Uniform Limited Cooperative Association Act Statement(Nat’l Conference of Comm’rs On Uniform State Laws, U. PA)

Mid-America Cooperative Council

Texas Agricultural Cooperative Council

Oklahoma Agricultural Cooperative Council

Cooperative Council of North Carolina