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Regional Report - Americas
Mr. Marcio Lopes de Freitas, OCB (Brazil)
Brazil: Cooperatives amongst the better enterprises
Once again, cooperatives were highlighted in the yearbook "Melhores & Maiores” (Best and Biggest) published each July by the trade publication Exame. The special publication presents a ranking of the leading companies in different sectors of the economy, in terms of economic performance. The list includes dozens of cooperatives among companies that performed better in 2015. Cooperatives from 5 economic sectors: agricultural, credit unions, health, consumption and transportation were listed by the Exame magazine, showing its strength, its ability to generate employment, income, development and, especially, competitiveness. From north to south Brazil, cooperatives contributed to the organization of 13.2 million Brazilians in more than 6,600 projects that also generate 375,000 direct jobs.
As an example, in the southern region, where the cooperative has a long history, coops are bringing together thousands of family farmers, and are leaders in food production. In other parts of Brazil, such as in the North and Northeast regions, the cooperative movement mobilizes a growing number of people and has the power and space to expand its activities, both economically and socially. Across the country, there are about 50 million people linked to the cooperative movement.
Companies included in the ranking were evaluated according to criteria of business excellence developed by the publication itself: a weighing of the results obtained in terms of sales growth, surplus assets, profitability, liquid circulating capital, a general liquidity, debt, wealth created, and number of employees, wealth created per employee, stock control and EBITDA.
Guatemala: Women fight for rights
The members of the Cooperative Alliance of Women of Guatemala move towards the development of a strategy to achieve recognition of their rights from a reform to the General Law on Cooperatives of their country. During a forum held in the City of Guatemala, delegates from different departments agreed on the need to influence each of their territories, in order to ensure effective support for Members of Congress to the proposed Law 4.920 on the subject. The attendees of the III Encounter "Women Cooperators Pushing Reforms for Development" had the support of Congresswoman Sandra Morán, who said the process must go through the proposal in Parliament and urged to prepare for the challenges that this will entail. The bill aims to ensure equal 4,920 and gender equality, greater participation of women in decision-making in the cooperative sector and the recognition of the contribution of which to the country's economy.
After his parliamentary presentation in 2014, the Proposed Reform of the General Law of Cooperatives was detained at the Commission of Co-operatives, but now was built for analysis in the Commission of Women. This opens up new prospects for an eventual favorable opinion to allow its inclusion in the agenda of the plenary in the coming months. Although in parallel the VIII Legislature of the Congress shall process the second generation of reforms to the Electoral and Political Parties Law - driven by the executive- and the proposed Budget Law of State Income and Expenditure 2017.
Costa Rica: Coffee producer’s cooperatives expand their participation in the national harvest
The 17 coffee cooperatives that are held in Costa Rica increased their share of the national harvest in the last five periods. The Institute of Coffee Data of Costa Rica (Icafé) informed that in the 2010-2011 period coffee cooperatives benefits received and processed 766,882 bushels of fruit (corresponding to an equal number of bags of 46 kilos of grain benefited). That was 36.5% of total production that year. Meanwhile, in the period 2014-2015 cooperative processed 787,432 bushels, which in that period accounted for 41.5% of the total harvest. The rest of the harvest is processed on benefits linked to exporters and independent.
“The greater participation of cooperatives is needed in the receipt and processing of coffee because these companies offer benefits to coffee farmers that go beyond price”, Guido Vargas, general secretary of the National Union of Small and Medium Producers (Upanacional) said toyXinia Chaves, former deputy minister of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG). According to Chaves, cooperatives of coffee producers associate with smaller farms and offer them support in their activities. Chaves is a producer of coffee and has held the presidency of the Coffee Institute of Costa Rica (Icafé) over various periods. The coffee leader recalled that in the years of the 90s the cooperative sector had up to 60% of the national harvest. However, the promotion of quality led many small producers installed their own microbeneficios (processing plant) and stop delivering to cooperatives. According to Chaves, today there is a process of reshuffling and associative companies recover.
Colombia: XV National Cooperative Convention
Between 25 and 26 August 2016 a new edition of the National Cooperative Congress, organized by the Confederation of Cooperatives of Colombia, of which more than 900 representatives of 207 cooperatives in 22 departments and 50 cities in the country was conducted.
The Colombian cooperative is committed to strengthening opportunities for constructive, analytical and purposeful dialogue aimed at promoting the model and the system of national integration, enabling promote and implement proposals for social and economic development aimed at deepening the cooperative presence in the country. To this end since late 2015 Confecoop presented the program "Cooperatives by Colombia 2016-2020: Our contribution to peace, which contains the lines of action of this system, proposals to the Government aimed at supporting peace building sustainably and moving towards overcoming the deep inequality in our country by promoting cooperatives. In implementing the guidelines, the XV National Cooperative Congress held last weekend in Cartagena and their program progress were presented, both the industry and the national government and international cooperation. The goals set by the Confederation when designing this Congress were fully achieved, thanks to the commitment, participation and support of Colombian cooperatives.
For 2 days more than 900 people convened-- representatives, delegates, partners and officials from 207 cooperatives from 22 departments and about 60 cities and municipalities, entities whose social base are 3,043,540 registered members, with the purpose to meet and reflect on fundamental need for the country's development and cooperative issues and consider different perspectives on their future. In addition to the above, the present government through representatives of 16 organizations, the international cooperation and cooperative experiences in the territories realized the socio-economic impact, the relevance of the model, leadership and ability of people and advances and opportunities available for cooperatives in the coming years.
Participants proposed ideas for the definition and promotion of a public policy that positions cooperatives in the country as actors of social and economic inclusion, enabling them to be a response to an expected peace, coexistence and development stage. Proposals that have been provided as an input for the revision of the legal framework are being developed to simplify procedures, promote stimulus, create incentives and remove barriers to the creation or functioning of cooperatives across the country, with a special emphasis on cooperatives for integrated rural development with a territorial approach.
Specifically to the Government and the Congress of the Republic, the proposal of its own tax regime for cooperatives has already received support from various political sectors and a favorable message from the government that is committed to this initiative. Director of the DIAN, Santiago Rojas and three congressmen who participated in the respective panel, will most certainly speak about the bill filed with the government in October with Olga Lucia Velasquez, Oscar Darío Pérez and Alejandro Carlos Chacon, and the direct involvement of the Minister Clara Lopez Obregon.
Progress towards the consolidation of the Colombian cooperative movement, especially, shows the important role that cooperatives play in local and regional development. Their contribution to the creation of social, cultural, environmental, human and citizen wealth and as powerful instruments in the restoration the social fabric affected by mistrust, inequality, inequity and lack of opportunities in many rural and urban areas of the country.
Argentina: CONINAGRO celebrates the 60th Anniversary
The main cooperative organization and largest organization representing producers and agricultural cooperatives in Argentina, CONINAGRO celebrated its 60th Anniversary on 18th September. CONINAGRO today consists of 10 federations and five supporting organizations. The federations contain 800 cooperatives across the country. The function thereof may be union representation at regional and local level, support to improve operations, or in some cases, providing commercial support. The strength of the pyramidal system is in the farmers who form the primary cooperatives, which are associated with second-degree federations, which in turn are associated with the confederation: CONINAGRO.
In numbers, 120,000 farmers are associated with a cooperative sector, or 40% of all Argentine producers. 24,000,000 hectares are worked by the agricultural cooperative producer, on a total of 33.000.000 hectares. 68% of these farms are located in the Pampas region. The provinces where there is more cooperative participation are Santa Fe, Buenos Aires, Cordoba, Mendoza and Entre Rios. However our representation currently extends also to the provinces Misiones, Corrientes, Chaco, Santiago del Estero, Salta, La Pampa, La Rioja, San Juan, San Luis, Black River and Santa Cruz. Around 91% of producers cooperatives have less than 500 hectares and 54% less than 100 hectares, which can determine that the cooperative gathers small and medium producers. The cooperative market represents approximately 22% of field production. Grains: 20.5%, rice 20%, Cotton 14%, Wool: 7.5%, Yerba: 25%; Tea: 45%, Dairy: 26% Honey 20%, Beef: 7% Wine: 33%, 17% Mosto Tomato: 20%, pepper 20% Snuff 45%.
Employment generation by agricultural cooperatives of the first degree, which are installed in small and medium towns in the interior, generate jobs for about 120,000 jobs associated producers entrepreneurs and 300,000 permanent and temporary agricultural workers in these units. Second-degree cooperatives, federations and associations, directly generate more than 40,000 jobs and indirectly through outsourcing in distribution, transport and subsidiaries, with over 20,000 people employed. Importantly, the Argentine agricultural cooperative sector directly employs throughout its value chain, from field to the gondola, markets and ports more than 500,000 workers. Regarding the participation of cooperatives in the country's economy, the same invoice more than USD S7.000 million annually, made exports more than USD S4.500 million; contributing almost 2% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and accounting for 9% of the food industry, with 15% of total primary and agro-industrial exports.
Cooperatives are social enterprises. They cannot be compared with other companies, simply because they are different in every way. The aims, principles and values make them different and as such should be treated from the point of corporate, legal, tax and social. Cooperatives are a mechanism of association that producers decide to develop through the values of cooperation, equality, equity, solidarity, mutual assistance and democracy. Therefore it argues that the cooperatives themselves do not pursue or profiteer. They are therefore exempt from paying income tax, when in fact they should be excluded from the scheme.
Cooperatives are the most efficient and fastest way to reach producers. Cooperatives cannot sell and leave. Not only by estoppel, by which if a cooperative decides to retire, the remaining surplus assets in state hands, but mainly for its commitment to the communities where they operate. Agricultural cooperatives whose mission is improving the quality of life of farmers tend to improve the profitability and stability of their business. Cooperatives genuinely express the horizontal and vertical integration in the agrifood chain. Diversification, aggregation and integration into the nacelle are important mechanisms for sustainability in the long term.
Puerto Rico: The cooperative marque formally adopted.
The cooperative movement in Puerto Rico adopted the new global symbol of the cooperative identity that will be used on a spring green background. The Union League stressed that "this event represents a new era of achievements and challenges for the national cooperative". "This new identity places us at the forefront of international proposals of the cooperative movement. Already more than 100 countries have implemented the new brand. Last June the color selection spring prevailed in Puerto Rico with 78.4% of votes in the Puerto Rican cooperatives. " Negron said William Ortiz, Chairman of Board of the League. The green represents hope and distinctive cooperative, the white color represents solidarity and the COOP word defines and represents a socio economic system guided by values and principles. Intertwined letters represent integration, teamwork in order to solve social, economic and cultural needs, it was reported in a written statement.
"Our motto is “cooperatives will help build a better world”. From now on all cooperators have a new flag that will continue to represent us with dignity," explained meanwhile Mildred Santiago Ortiz, executive director of the League. Cooperators will be hoisting the new flag of cooperativism in a ceremony held Sunday, October 2, 2016 in the Linear ride Juan Antonio Corretjer in the village of Ciales with varied activities. In Puerto Rico there are currently 116 credit union, more than 100 cooperatives of various types in the area associated work, housing, and commercial users. In addition, 300 school youth cooperatives, community and university.
The Cooperative League of Puerto Rico is a private institution created by the cooperatives themselves. It is the only association of third degree, which makes it the highest level of integration of the Puerto Rican Cooperative Movement.
United States: NCBA celebrates the 100th Anniversary
NCBA CLUSA is celebrating 100 years of cooperatives that build a better world throughout 2016, and, as part of that focus, has prioritized getting the ideas, insights and concerns of cooperators, as published in opinion pieces nationwide. In February, an op-ed by David Thompson, president of the Twin Pines Cooperative Foundation, was published by The Post and Courier, the South's oldest daily newspaper. Throughout the month of February, NCBA CLUSA highlighted the impact of cooperative leaders in shaping the civil rights movement.
That theme continued with an op-ed called “Black Lands Matter” by Cornelius Blanding, Director of Field Operations for the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund and a member of the NCBA CLUSA Board of Directors. The Clarion-Ledger published his thoughts on how the cooperative movement in the South helped usher in an era of resiliency and equal access to land for underserved farmers, landowners and rural communities.
During Women’s History month in March, in an op-ed originally published by the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Teresa Freeborn, CEO of Xceed Financial Credit Union, wrote that credit unions are working to end the sexist executive landscape seen in much of corporate America—especially within the financial sector, where only 2.1 percent of CEOs are female. The values of cooperative businesses, she said, "can propel women on a path to success."
In May, in an op-ed published this by The Hill, Representatives Ed Royce (R-CA) and Mark Pocan (D-WI)—co-chairs of the Congressional Cooperative Business Caucus—pointed out that despite the cooperative business model's long track record of empowering working Americans and developing underserved communities, it is not often considered when lawmakers and the private sector discuss policies that will grow the U.S. economy.
In a June op-ed published by The News-Gazette, covering East Central Illinois, Keith Taylor unpacked an approach to community economic development he says is rapidly gaining attention, and for good reason: cooperative business development. Co-ops, he wrote, "represent the kind of resiliency that we desperately need in our communities." Taylor is a former board member of Common Ground Food Co-op and a graduate of the University of Illinois Human and Community Development Ph.D. program. He now serves as a research associate with the Ostrom Workshop at Indiana University, a board member of the Indiana Co-op Development Center and a member of NCBA CLUSA.
In another June opinion piece published by the Centre Daily Times, Stacey Budd, Cooperative Outreach Coordinator at Friends & Farmers Cooperative and an NCBA CLUSA member, made the case that online markets like the one Friends & Family launched in 2014 can help grow a vibrant, healthy community.
Finally, in July, Rob Miller, CEO of VSECU—a 60,000-member, not for profit cooperative credit union serving Vermont—wrote about how rising social entrepreneurialism offers a unique opportunity to grow the cooperative movement. Miller is a former Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Economic Development and senior executive with global asset management and risk consulting companies. He also currently serves on the boards of the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies, Capstone Community Action, Vermont Council on Rural Development, and the Energy Action Network.
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United States: NCFC supports the TPP
The National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC), main representative organization on the agricultural cooperative sector in the United States, announced its support for the pending Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement and called on Congress to approve TPP before the end of the year. “Exports continue to be an engine driving economic growth across America. For agriculture, the TPP offers tremendous opportunity to farmers and their co-ops to expand exports and generate additional economic activity across farm country,” said Chuck Conner, president and CEO of NCFC. “The agreement contains meaningful reductions in barriers erected by other countries to U.S. agricultural exports by lowering tariffs and working to ensure that sanitary and phytosanitary standards are based on science. “We look forward to a robust debate on TPP in Congress and stand ready to help push the agreement across the finish line,” he concluded.
Canada: Coop Fédérée starts partnership with the government
Through its subsidiary, Énergies Sonic inc., La Coop fédérée is pleased to announce that it will participate in the pilot project to install multi-fuel stations in Quebec, one of the commitments by the Government of Quebec within the framework of its 2030 Energy Policy. La Coop fédérée is proud to be a part of a group of enterprises, leaders in their domain, comprising Toyota Canada, Gaz Métro, Air Liquide, and the crown corporation, Hydro-Québec, which will make up the steering committee.
In April 2016, La Coop fédérée favourably welcomed the new Quebec energy policy put forward by the Government of Quebec. “Even during the public hearings by the Commission énergétique du Québec in 2013, La Coop fédérée underlined the importance for Québec to become and remain a world leader in the development of renewable energy, and in the fight against climate change, with an ambitious policy. I would like to thank the Minister for Energy and Natural Resources, and the minister responsible for the Plan Nord, Pierre Arcand, as well as the ministry’s teams, for their confidence in our capabilities and expertise in this matter. It is a great challenge that we have been entrusted with and we have the firm intention to be successful,” declared Ghislain Gervais, president of La Coop fédérée.
La Coop fédérée and its network of agricultural and retail cooperatives recognize the importance of energy issues as they are users as well as being distributors. La Coop fédérée has one of the strongest regional footprints in Quebec. La Coop fédérée has been present in the energy sector since 1958 through its Sonic brand which distributes various energy products and operates 185 service stations across Quebec. It also operates 22 self-service truck stops, 14 regional storage sites and provides sales, installation and maintenance services for heating and storage equipment. Sonic has over 220 employees. “We need to meet the energy requirements of individuals and businesses wherever they are located. The government’s energy agreement is very ambitious. To get there within the 2030 timespan, we must count on the players who are already in the game for a major transformation of Quebec’s energy portrait. We will bring our full collaborative effort to the table to ensure the advancement and realization of this pilot,” declared Gaétan Desroches, CEO for La Coop fédérée.
Recently, La Coop fédérée announced an agreement to group together its Énergies Sonic inc. subsidiary with another Quebec leader in the sector, Groupe Filgo. Groupe Filgo was founded in 1956 and is present in several regions of Quebec across three principal sectors of activity: the distribution of petroleum products destined for residential and commercial customers, a network of service stations and convenience stores, and the distribution and sale of lubricants. The group employs nearly 640 people and operates 145 service stations, 15 distribution centres, 12 self-service truck stops and 10 regional storage sites. The new entity created by grouping together the two organizations will be wholly owned by Quebec-based interests.