NCERA210: Improving the management and effectiveness of cooperatively owned business organizations

(Multistate Research Coordinating Committee and Information Exchange Group)

Status: Active

NCERA210: Improving the management and effectiveness of cooperatively owned business organizations

Duration: 10/01/2018 to 09/30/2023

Administrative Advisor(s):


NIFA Reps:


Statement of Issues and Justification

Agriculture continues to change rapidly, fueled by concentration at all levels of the supply chain, technological advances, and consumer preferences. Together, these create challenges for producers and residents of rural communities, and particularly for the cooperatives that serve them. Agricultural cooperatives are important means by which producers can remain competitive in an increasingly concentrated and specialized agricultural economy. In addition to their traditional role in providing agricultural inputs, marketing agricultural products and coordinating farm production activities, new cooperatives have emerged to allow producers to participate in value-added processing, particularly for niche and specialized production. Through cooperation, producers maintain ownership and a voice in the decision-making processes of the firms with which they do business, and effectively managed cooperatives provide a way for improving the profitability, viability and diversification of family-owned operations.

Together with the decline in farm numbers and rural population, there has been a loss of business in rural communities. This was identified as a major obstacle to rural development when this committee was organized in 1998, and it remains an important issue today. Agricultural cooperatives are key contributors to the economic base of rural communities. Cooperatively organized businesses provide credit, utilities and other services important to rural infrastructure. Recent developments such as cooperatively organized ambulance services and road maintenance services demonstrate the potential for applying the cooperative business model to the infrastructure challenges of rural communities.

Across the United States and Canada, many university and government researchers have a primary or secondary focus on cooperatives. Recent attendance at NCERA-210 annual meetings has ranged between 25 – 30 individuals representing land grant university specialists, industry representatives from CHS, Inc., Land O’Lakes, CoBank, and other national cooperatives, local cooperative managers and directors, cooperative industry associations and representation from the government sector. Recent meetings have also included university faculty from western Canadian provinces, providing international linkages in today’s global market place. In 2015, NCERA 210 updated its listserv by asking those on the current listserv to identify continued interest in cooperatives by subscribing to the newly created Google group.  There are currently 60 members in the listserv, including attendees at recent annual meetings.

The establishment of NCERA 210 has greatly facilitated collaborative research and outreach among NCERA 210 members. Examples during 2016 include collaborative educational and training offerings for cooperative boards and managers in Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota and Iowa and the continuation of the Bill Fitzwater Symposium in Oklahoma.  Additionally members from NCERA 210 submitted a joint proposal for a track session at the 2017 Applied and Agricultural Economics Association Annual Meeting. Research and an excel based feasibility template on a rural broadband cooperative developed by Oklahoma State University was used by NCERA-210 member Todd Schmidt at Cornell University to help establish a broadband cooperative. 

Other research and outreach efforts include development of a cooperatives textbook, development and offerings of educational materials for cooperative boards, management, employees, and members throughout the nation, and a study of human resource management at agricultural cooperatives case studies, and other multi-state research projects. New collaborative projects continue to be developed. The Journal of Cooperatives is one of the major peer-reviewed research publications focusing on the cooperative business model.  The current editor of the Journal of Cooperatives is a NCERA-210 member and the committee members are well represented in submitted and published articles. Michael Boland is finishing a textbook on cooperatives that will have a detailed teaching manual with lectures and notes from NCERA-210 members. The book will be used in director education and undergraduate student instruction.

NCERA 210 members also have good working relationships with cooperatives, a fact that enhances the relevance and the quick dissemination and application of their work. Representatives from 12 cooperatives organizations served on the expert panel for the first stage of the critical issues research project. In addition to the industry members serving on the panel, the project was supported by the Council on Food, Agriculture and Resource Economics (C-FARE) USDA, the CHS Foundation, the Farm Credit Council and the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives. NCERA-210 annual meetings coincide with annual Farmer Cooperatives Conference meetings, so as to facilitate interaction among researchers and individuals from industry. These meetings average more than 150 managers, directors, and service providers each year and represent a valuable forum for faculty to interact with industry. Many NCERA 210 members serve on the planning activity for this program. These meetings have been considered of utmost benefit for both industry representatives and researchers. Members are also making use of the NCERA 210 web page and the list serve to communicate with each other. Members are actively communicating the results of their research beyond the committee. NCERA 210 members presented cooperative-related research results at over 40 professional meetings and over 100 extension presentations every year during the project duration.

NCERA-210 is also working to effectively disseminate research results. The committee works closely with the Cooperative Community of Practice in eXtension which was launched in 2010. The leadership team of the eXtension Cooperative COP are all NCERA-210 members. NCERA-210 members have been active in developing content for the Cooperative COP. The on-going linkage between NCERA-210 and the Cooperative COP has created an effective vehicle to develop and communicate research-based information, consistent with the Land Grant mission.

In addition to this recent effort, NCERA-210 members have a long history of creating and publishing applied research that is accessible to cooperative managers and board members. A review of publications on the NCERA-210 website includes papers on equity management, farm supply inventory management, structural arrangements for machinery cooperatives, feasibility of cooperative wineries, cooperative structures for multifamily rural housing, optimal structures for fertilizer warehousing, feasibility of forestry cooperatives, structures for rural water cooperatives and a host of other topics. These research publications are frequently accessed by industry participants and compliment the more theoretical and basic research efforts which are also an important outcome of the committee’s efforts.

Objectives

  1. Examine and evaluate best practices of governance and management and study the organizational behavior of cooperative organizations.
  2. Examine the impacts of the cooperative business model on its members and their local economies.
  3. Examine industry structure, competitiveness, financial performance, sustainability issues, and the potential for cooperative businesses.
  4. Provide educational material and peer reviewed research information related to cooperatives to members, directors, management, policy makers, and the general public.

Procedures and Activities

(1) The development and participation in multi-state, multi-region research projects including multi-state grant projects, publication of journal articles, professional papers and other publications, the development and participation in organized symposium at professional meetings, the development and participating in webinars, and other multi-state research efforts.

(2) The organization and implementation of an annual two-day forum at which participants from academics, upper and middle management personnel from cooperatives, directors from cooperatives, and cooperative researchers in government focus on ongoing research on cooperatives, identify research issues, and organize research teams among the participants.

(3) Continued involvement of agricultural economists, and researchers from other related and complementary disciplines in cooperative issues, development, and problems as evidenced by their participation in annual forums, communication posted on the NCERA-210 web page and listserve, and participation in cooperative research projects.

(4) Maintain the NCERA 210 web page https://sites.google.com/site/nceracooperatives/home that serves as an important vehicle for communication among the members and to industry. Continue to disseminate NCERA-210 information through the web site including selected papers presented at NCERA-210 annual forums, other committee publications, a calendar of committee events, and educational programs.

(5) Continue to support and facilitate the publication of the Journal of Cooperatives, an on-line, peer reviewed journal that provides a forum for original scholarly work on research, extension and teaching issues related to cooperatively owned business organizations and the cooperative business model.

(6) Disseminate research results through coordination and support of the Cooperatives Community of Practice on eXtension, webinars, industry conferences, organized symposium at professional meetings, sharing information through web-pages and list servers, and the development of educational conferences co-sponsored by NCERA-210 members and industry partners.

Expected Outcomes and Impacts

  • The prioritization and development of research-based information which improves the efficiency and profitability of cooperatively owned business and advances the understanding of the cooperative business model through multi-state research projects, multi-state grant projects and other research efforts.
  • Research-based information relating to cooperatively owned businesses and the cooperative business model will be created and disseminated through publication of journal articles, professional papers and other publications, development and participation in organized symposia at professional meetings, webinars, the Cooperatives Community of Practice on eXtension, industry conferences, the NCERA-210 web-page and list serve, and educational conferences co-sponsored by NCERA-210 members and industry partners. This information will improve the efficiency and profitability of existing cooperative businesses and enhance the success of new cooperative development.
  • Participants from academics, upper and middle management personnel from cooperatives, directors from cooperatives, and cooperative researchers in government will attend an annual two day forum where they will identify research issues, organize research teams, and present and discuss on-going research efforts.
  • Agricultural economists, applied economists, rural sociologists, faculty from business schools, and faculty in other related disciplines will benefit from a cross pollination of thought relating to cooperative issues, development, and problems as evidenced by their participation in annual forums, communication posted on the NCERA-210 web page and list serve, and participation in cooperative research projects.
  • The NCERA-210 web page will be maintained creating an important vehicle for communication among the members and to industry and disseminating NCERA-210 information through the web site including selected papers presented at NCERA-210 annual forums, other committee publications, a calendar of committee events, and educational programs.
  • The Journal of Cooperatives will continue to be published and serve as an important peer reviewed journal that provides a forum for original scholarly work on research, extension and teaching issues related to cooperatively owned business organizations and the cooperative business model.
  • The cooperative textbook and detailed teaching manual for use in extension and undergraduate education will be completed.
  • The close coordination between the NCERA-210 committee and the Cooperatives Community of Practice on eXtension will enhance the effectiveness and prestige of the Cooperatives COP and serve as another linkage between NCERA-210 members and the cooperative industry.

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Educational Plan

One of the primary objectives of the committee is to disseminate new and existing information to academic professionals and industry managers who work with cooperatively owned businesses. Information generated by the committee, including research papers or presentations presented at the annual meeting is available on the NCERA-210 web site. All of the grant proposals, and collaborative research projects supported by the committee to-date, have contained a strong educational component. The NCERA-210 annual meetings are deliberately planned to coincide with annual Farmer Cooperatives industry conference, so as to facilitate interaction among researchers and individuals from industry. NCERA 210 members present cooperative-related research results at professional meetings and extension presentations.

Organization/Governance

Governance: In accordance with the recommended standard governance for multistate coordinating committees for education/extension and research activities a Chair, a Chair-elect, and a Secretary are elected at the annual meeting. All officers are elected for one year terms but the assumed progression is Secretary-Chair-Elect and Chair, which provides continuity. Administrative guidance will be provided by an assigned Administrative Adviser and a CSREES Representative.

Literature Cited

Attachments

Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

IA, KS, MI, MN, MO, NE, NJ, NY, OH, OK, SD, TX, WI

Non Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

Texas Tech University, University of Wisconsin - River Falls
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