University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives
Year in Cooperation: A Cooperative Development Magazine
Published by the Minnesota Association of Cooperatives
Spring 1996 -- Vol. 2 No. 2


By Allen Gerber, President, Minnesota Association of Cooperatives

That the world around us is changing is not news to anyone. Perhaps the rate of change is most surprising.

Last month, directors at the Regional Director's Workshop explored the changing global food system and how cooperatives will finance their growth in the future. The challenges raised will give directors of cooperatives of all sizes lots to ponder as they carry out their duties as board members.

The Saskatchewan Wheat Pool's General Manager of the Food & Industrial Group described that cooperative's use of a member and public stock offering to raise capital for diversification and expansion. Gert van Dijk, CEO of the Dutch Cooperative Council, spoke of Dutch cooperatives which are already active in the international sector. These cooperatives have formed holding companies and are selling 49 percent ownership in their subsidiaries on the public exchange. Tom Debrowski, senior vice-president, Pillsbury Company, shared that company's definition of value-added and what they were doing to develop strategic alliances world-wide. Steve Dees, Farmland Industries, and Mark Palmquist, Harvest States Cooperatives, reported on how cooperatives are responding to the changes in the world food system.

Why all this current interest in the evolving world food system? What will be cooperatives' role in this new system? How is the global economy that is emerging from GATT, NAFTA and bilateral trade agreements, providing opportunities for cooperatives and, what will the challenges be?

The Upper Midwest will probably continue to be a major producer and shipper of basic commodities. However, it is important that those of us in cooperatives understand the complexities of the increasingly integrated world food system. If we are going to benefit in any way other than as a provider of basic commodities for some other company, the control of value-added industries needs to remain in the hands of the farmers and the rural communities.

This magazine has tried to track some of the activities of farmers working together to increase their income through local, regional and new generation cooperatives.

In this edition of Year in Cooperation we try to capture some of the important issues facing cooperative directors. Lee Egerstrom has included excerpts from a new book, International Market Power of Cooperatives. The St. Paul Bank has contributed information on financial leverage, while Margaret Lund explains joint efforts of the North Country Development Fund and the National Cooperative Bank.

If you have any comments or suggestions about this publication please get back to us.

This material has been reproduced in electronic format with the permission of Year in Cooperation.

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