Virtual Farmer Cooperatives Conference Highlights Innovation

Join your farmer cooperative peers for the 24th Annual Farmer Cooperatives Conference November 1-3, 2021. Presented by the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives, the Farmer Cooperatives Conference provides a forum for cooperative directors, managers, and those doing business with agricultural cooperatives to explore issues that will shape the future of farmer-owned cooperatives.
This year's conference will provide attendees a chance to explore the current state of farmer cooperatives including:
  • Competitive Strategies Using Alternative Business Models - Increasingly, cooperatives are working together under LLCs and joint venture models to gain efficiencies, while retaining autonomy and local control. In this session, we will hear from leaders from Skyland Grain LLC and Landus Cooperative about their approaches to these alternative business models and the benefits to farmer members.
  • Policy Update - What’s in store for the agriculture industry in 2022? Chuck Conner, President and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, will review important policy issues impacting farmer-owned cooperatives in the year ahead.
  • Cyberattacks and Ransomware: How to Prepare Your Co-op - In this session, Robert E. Cattanach, will first share steps you can take BEFORE a cyberattack to minimize your cooperative’s risk. But we all know that ultimately it is a matter of when, not if. Bob will walk us through an example of a ransomware attack, the inevitable unknowns and many times unknowables, the typical cadence of how attackers exploit their victims, and the process for assessing the tradeoffs between negotiating the best price versus accepting the reputational and legal risk of not paying the ransom and accepting the fact that the world will know that your data compromised.
  • Innovations in Management Structures: AMPI Case Study - Following the resignation of the co-op’s CEO in 2014, the Associated Milk Producers Inc. (AMPI) board of directors considered a co-management model with two long-time employees at the helm of the largest cheese cooperative in the U.S. In this session, AMPI leaders will share how the co-CEO structure aligns with the co-op’s culture, how this structure has worked for the board, and what to consider if you are exploring alternative management structures.
Thanks to our generous sponsors, we are able to keep this year's Farmer Cooperatives Conference incredibly affordable. Early bird registration ends Friday, October 15 and is only $40 for the entire experience! Register today! 

Cooperative Governance Research Survey to Launch

Member control is one of the key differentiators of a cooperative enterprise. Members exercise control over a cooperative by voting on major issues and electing a board of directors to govern the cooperative on their behalf. As we all know, strong governance is essential for the success of cooperatives. Unfortunately, to date no research has systematically examined governance practices of U.S. cooperatives across sectors and over time.

We are pleased to announce an exciting initiative that will begin to fill this critical knowledge gap: the Cooperative Governance Research Initiative. Later this month, the UW Center for Cooperatives will launch the National Cooperative Governance Survey in order to collect information on the governance practices of U.S. cooperatives.

A sample of cooperative leaders will receive a unique and confidential link to access the survey. If your cooperative is selected to participate in the survey, we hope you will complete it. By participating in the National Cooperative Governance Survey, you will be contributing to research that will help U.S. cooperatives benchmark, reflect on, and improve their governance practices.

New Report Highlights Factors that Promote New Rural Co-op Development

UWCC has released the results of a multi-year research and outreach project titled Collective Action in Rural Communities: Mapping Opportunities for Cooperative Conversion and Start-up. The goal of this project was to enhance opportunities for rural cooperative entrepreneurship by providing decision-making tools and research-based information to cooperative and economic developers, rural entrepreneurs, and policy makers. The report delves into the many ways rural communities are using the cooperative model to meet collective needs and to strengthen local economies.

In the report and highlighted below, you will find:
Five clusters of robust cooperative development were identified and analyzed.
New rural co-ops incorporated from 2011 - 2019
Many thanks to the National Institute for Agriculture’s Agriculture Food Research Initiative (AFRI), which funded this major research undertaking.

In Brief: Updates and Resources

UWCC Awarded Grant for Rural Cooperative Development

UWCC was recently awarded $200,000 of funding through the USDA Rural Cooperative Development Grant program. This is the 11th consecutive grant award UWCC has received through the program. The funding will support cooperative development work in agriculture and value-added production, rural grocery cooperatives, cooperative conversions, forestry cooperatives, cooperative director training, and general cooperative outreach and education.

Save the Date: Farm Supply Director Training

Minnesota and Wisconsin will cooperate on a director leadership program Tuesday-Wednesday, January 4-5 (Mankato, MN) and Monday-Tuesday January 10-11, 2022 (Baraboo, WI). Topics will include:
  • how boards might handle employee issues brought up by a director
  • what boards should consider having in a written contract for their CEO or General Manager
  • what a board should know about its balance sheet and its ability to handle risky events like cyber security
  • current trends in energy and their impact on a cooperative’s energy portfolio.
Invited speakers include attorneys, a panel on cyber security, and other experts. The highly interactive program will include exercise at tables between directors using flip charts and extensive questions and answers with the speakers. We will follow local health department guidelines for COVID-19 at the time of the training. Registration will open in mid-November. If you have any questions, please contact Megan Webster.

Upcoming Events

24th Annual Farmer Cooperatives Conference

November 1 - 3, 2021
Online program

The 24th Annual Farmer Cooperatives Conference will highlight the latest strategic thinking from your fellow agricultural cooperative peers. Building off of our 2020 online format, the conference will allow participants to interact with speakers and fellow attendees through chat, interactive Q&A sessions, and facilitated discussion groups. This year's conference will provide attendees a chance to explore the current state of farmer cooperatives including the policy environment, innovations in management structures, and alternative business models to gain efficiencies, while retaining local control. See the full program.

Onboarding with Purpose: Systems and Strategies for Successfully Integrating New Directors

December 9, 2021, 10:30 - 12:00 p.m. CT

This webinar by UWCC Executive Director Courtney Berner will explore the ins and outs of director onboarding, a critical component of sustaining a healthy and productive board of directors. The webinar will address why orienting new directors is so important and offer tangible ways cooperatives can improve their own director onboarding and education programs.There is not cost to participate, registration is required.