The Center for Cooperatives in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University is working on a project to assess the professional legal, accounting, and tax services available to cooperative and collaborative businesses in Ohio and West Virginia.
The goals of the project are twofold.
First, using information collected from an online survey, the Center will create a directory of professionals who provide services to cooperatives and collaborative enterprises.
Second, the Center will use online survey responses to better understand professionals’ experience levels, continuing education practices, and interests in network building to help develop programming and resources for professionals in our region’s cooperative community.
How can you help with this project?
If you are an attorney, accountant, or tax professional who works with cooperatives and collaborative enterprises, we invite you to take the short survey at the link below. The survey will gather information for a directory of professionals and ask about your experience with cooperatives as well as continuing education and networking interests. We anticipate that the survey will take approximately 5-10 minutes of your time.
If you know legal, financial, or tax professionals working with cooperatives, please forward this invitation to participate to them! Gathering robust information will help us create valuable resources for the cooperative community.
Did you know that the average gross revenue of a food hub in 2017 was $2.4 million? Or that the most common types of customers for food hubs are restaurants and direct consumers? Or that the average number of vendor selling to a food hub was 55 in 2013?
“Findings of the 2017 National Food Hub Survey,” published in March 2018, details these and many more findings from a comprehensive review of the maturing food hub sector in the United States. The report reviews many aspects of a food hub business from finances to food safety, giving food hub stakeholders access to information that can help inform their decisions, based on a national survey of existing food hubs. You can learn more about the study’s results in a webinar hosted by the National Good Food Network at 3:30pm EST on Thursday, April 19, 2018.
“Counting Values: Food Hub Financial Benchmarking Study,” released in 2014 by the Wallace Center at Winrock International, Farm Credit East, and other partners, details financial and operational characteristics for food hubs in a way that can serve as performance indicators for other businesses in the sector.
Food hub stakeholders have an opportunity now to contribute to an update of research like this through the 2018 Food Hub Benchmarking Study. The study, according to the Wallace Center at Winrock International will collect financial and operational data from food hub businesses, standardizing and aggregating the data to develop sector insights and performance indicators. Hubs that participate in the study will receive and individualized benchmark report and technical assistance on using the report as a business tool. Learn more about how to participate in the study here.
According to the “Findings of the 2017 National Food Hub Survey,” fresh produce and herbs are the most common products sold by food hubs in the U.S.
The cooperative world has seen a lot of discussion this month about the potential consequences of the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 for agricultural cooperatives and their members. Explore these resources from Iowa State University’s Dr. Keri Jacobs and Dr. Brian Briggeman of Kansas State University with Dr. Philip Kenkel of Oklahoma State University to learn more.
The Mid America Cooperative Council (MACC), an organization representing over 100 cooperatives in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan, is offering a unique leadership training for co-op employees, board members, and other prospective leaders. The sessions on February 21-22 and March 6-7 in Oxford, Ohio will include tours of successful cooperatives in various sectors, sessions on leadership and management, and talks with cooperative leaders from across Ohio, among other activities.
MACC Executive Director, Rod Kelsay, talks with forum participants about how to develop their personal leadership skills.
In 2016, staff members of the OSU South Centers had the opportunity to participate in the forum, which included tours of Butler Rural Electric Cooperative, Inc. and CHACO Credit Union as well as visits from representatives of Miami University Credit Union, Dairy Farmers of America, and COBA/Select Sires. The various speakers shared how their co-ops benefit members, how they are governed, and the services they provide to members. Each highlighted their “cooperative difference,” including their prioritization of members’ needs, education efforts, and concern for community. OSU South Centers’ Kimberly Roush, explained the inspiration she gathered from visits to local co-ops. “I noticed an interesting result of the cooperative environment during the leadership forum—the overall culture of the cooperative employees who spoke with us. The staff explained specific details about the reason for and the function of their cooperatives. Then they shared something more—talking about member activities and interaction with the community. It was exciting to learn how the cooperative principles permeate the local culture.”
Not only did staff learn a great deal from various guest speakers, the forum was an opportunity to network with and learn from other participants who worked across various sectors like credit unions and agricultural marketing and supply co-ops.
Modern cooperatives, whether they market agricultural products, operate a food store, or purchase hardware supplies, typically operate according to a set of widely recognized cooperative principles. These “cooperative principles” tie cooperatives across the United States and the world together in a larger movement. Where did these principles originate? How did the cooperative model and movement develop?
Cooperative Principles and the Rochdale Pioneers
The cooperative principles recognized by the International Co-operative Alliance, and the broad cooperative community, are generally recognized to have originated from the efforts of 28 working men who founded the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society in 1844 and operated a cooperatively owned store that started out selling butter, flour, sugar, and oatmeal. The Rochdale Pioneers, as they came to be known, were working toward social goals that arose out of the conditions of their time, including harsh working conditions. Read more about the Rochdale Pioneers and their efforts on the website of the Rochdale Pioneer Museum.
Watch this video commissioned for the Rochdale Pioneers Museum and the Co-operative Heritage Trust to learn more about the development of the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society.
The original rules of the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society included:
That capital should be of their own providing and bear a fixed rate of interest
That only the purest provisions procurable should be supplied to members
That full weight and measure should be given
That market prices should be charged and no credit given nor asked
That profits should be divided pro rate upon the amount of purchases made by each member
That the principle of ‘one member one vote’ should obtain in government and the equality of the sexes in membership
That management should be in the hands of officers and committee elected periodically
That a definite percentage of profits should be allotted to education
That frequent statements and balance sheets should be presented to members
Today, the cooperative community recognizes seven core principles.
While modern cooperative principles can be traced to Rochdale, England in the mid-19th century, the cooperative business was not a new form of organization. In fact, mutual insurance companies existed as early as 1530 in Paris and London and various ‘friendly societies’ operated in England in the 1700’s to provide financial assistance to members in difficult times of sickness, unemployment, or death. Purchasing cooperatives operated in various Western European countries by the 18th century and consumer controlled mills operated in England in the early 1800s. The Fenwick Weavers Society in Scotland began collective purchasing in 1769; according to the Rochdale Pioneers Musuem, the society is the “earliest cooperative retail society for which records survive.”
Some cooperative scholars trace the history of cooperation much further than these efforts. Rather, they look to ancient social norms of mutual aid, such as the collegia of ancient Rome’s, the craft guilds of 11th century Europe, and the Ahi movement in Anotolia or what is today, Turkey. Ed Mayo’s short publication, “A short history of cooperation and mutuality,” provides a fresh perspective on these movements and the ways that they were influential in shaping the modern cooperative movement.
Cooperatives in the United States
In the United States, Benjamin Franklin helped to start the first recognized cooperative business, a mutual insurance company, in 1752. Agricultural cooperatives played an important role in the development of cooperatives in the U.S. with the first ag co-ops beginning operations in 1810 in dairy and cheese making. From 1810 until 1887, cooperatives were founded in many sectors of agriculture, including hog marketing, irrigation, fruit marketing, and cotton ginning, among others. The Grange, one of the first farm organizations in the U.S., organized cooperative development efforts while other farm groups like the American Farm Bureau and National Farmers Union were also instrumental to developing agricultural cooperatives. In fact, Farm Bureau helped to establish Growmark and Nationwide Insurance while National Farmers Union helped to establish CHS, Inc., the largest agricultural cooperative in the U.S. today.