Resources for Farmer Cooperatives

Successful cooperatives can benefit their farmer members and others in many ways. But even the most successful cannot be all things to all members, and not all farmers want to operate in a cooperative structure.  Cooperatives have been a part of agriculture for centuries.  This page highlights mostly resources from the USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service, and the USDA does provide support to cooperatives, but there are also many regional and state cooperative development organizations that may provide more specific support for your state.

General Cooperative Resources

Organizational Charting for Member Control in Cooperatives (Research Report 235).

Information on federal statutes of cooperatives: Federal Statutes of Special Importance to Farmer Cooperatives (Cooperative Information Report 66).

Do Yourself a Favor Join a Cooperative (Cooperative Information Report 54). This pamphlet focuses on the unique aspects of doing business and providing services on a cooperative basis and the special benefits that cooperative members enjoy.

Co-ops 101: An Introduction to Cooperatives (Cooperative Information Report 55en Espanol). This report provides a comprehensive summary of basic information on the cooperative way of organizing and operating a business. It covers the nature and extent of the use of cooperatives, compares cooperatives to other business structures, explains the roles various people play in a cooperative, and discusses equity accumulation and income taxation.

Co-op Essentials: What They Are and the Role of Members, Directors, Managers and Employees (Cooperative Information Report 11). This guide (a companion publication to USDA’s Co-ops 101) provides essential information about cooperatives. It explains what cooperatives are, including their business structure and principles. It examines the responsibilities and roles of cooperative members, directors, managers, and employees.

Resources for Starting a Cooperative

How to Start a Cooperative (Cooperative Information Report 7en Espanol). This guide outlines the process of organizing a cooperative business and provides information on the potential steps involved and some important aspects of co-op development. It presents the 12 steps involved in most cooperative development projects. A cooperative business is also briefly described, including its structure and basic principles.

Vital Steps: A Cooperative Feasibility Study Guide (Service Report 34). This guide complements the report, “How to Start a Cooperative,” by providing rural residents with greater information about cooperative development feasibility studies.

Understanding Capper-Volstead (Cooperative Information Report 35). A brief publication that covers the law that allows producers to form cooperatives to jointly market their products.

Food Hub Series: Four Publications about Developing and Improving Food Hubs (Service Report 77 Vol. 1; Four guides (Lessons Learned From the Field; compliments the report, How to Start a Cooperative, by providing rural residents with greater information about cooperative development feasibility studies.

Additional information and research publications can be found on the USDA Cooperative Publications page


Rural Cooperative Development Grant Program

The Rural Cooperative Development Grant Program improves the economic condition of rural areas by helping individuals and businesses start, expand or improve rural cooperatives and other mutually-owned businesses through Cooperative Development Centers. Nonprofit corporations and institutions of higher education can apply. Here are some of the Cooperative Development Centers in the U.S.

Socially Disadvantaged Group and Value-Added Producer Grants

The Socially Disadvantaged Group Grant (SDGG) is for: cooperatives and Cooperative Development Centers that serve socially disadvantaged groups where a majority of the board of directors or governing board is comprised of individuals who are members of socially disadvantaged groups.

And for cooperatives, producers, or associations of producers, is the Value-Added Producer Grant program. This program provides funding to studying the feasibility of a adding value to a commodity, or for further marketing an already developed value-added product.

The Business & Industry Loan Guarantee program is also available to cooperative businesses, and as well, to individual members for purchase of cooperative preferred stock.

And to see other RD business loan and grant programs please go here.