Cooperative: A private business organization that is owned and controlled by the people who use its products, supplies or services.
Although cooperatives vary in type and membership size, all were formed to meet the specific objectives of members and are structured to adapt to their changing needs.
Cooperatives are formed by individuals who coordinate among themselves (horizontal coordination) to achieve vertical integration in their business activities. (UC Davis)
Background & Application
N.C. State University’s Plants for Human Health Institute consists of both Research and N.C. Cooperative Extension programs. With funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development program, the Cooperative Extension component works with producer groups and cooperatives to help evaluate and grow new business ventures. Assistance may be provided to N.C.-based producer groups for the following:
- Feasibility Studies
- Strategic Planning
- Budget & Business Planning
- Organizational Development & Training
- Ethics Training
- Branding, Marketing and Pricing Strategies
- Technology Integration
If you believe that your N.C.-based producer group could benefit from any of the assistance listed above, please complete the following application. Your organization may be contacted for further information specific to your purpose and your proposed activities. Please return your completed application to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines three principles that uniquely characterize a cooperative organization:
- The User-Owned Principle: The people who own and finance the cooperative are those who use the cooperative.
- The User-Control Principle: The people who control the cooperative are those who use the cooperative. They democratically elect a board of directors. The board sets the overall operating policies, approves the annual budget, oversees its operation and distributes the benefits derived from use of the cooperative to members. The board also hires professional management to handle the day-to-day operations.
- The User-Benefit Principle: The cooperative’s sole purpose is to provide and distribute benefits to its users on the basis of their use. While the goal of agricultural cooperatives is not to generate a return on investment, they, like all businesses, must cover costs and generate capital to cover expansion and unforeseen emergencies.
- The International Cooperative Alliance is a worldwide association of cooperatives. The Statement of Cooperative Identity which it adopted in 1995 contains seven cooperative principles that are more socially minded:
- Voluntary and Open Membership
- Democratic Member Control
- Member Economic Participation
- Autonomy and Independence
- Education, Training and Information
- Cooperation Among Cooperatives
- Concern for Community
- Cooperative 101 from USDA (PDF)
- Cooperative Business Values from the International Co-operative Alliance