Research and Technical Assistance Work Are Heart of Cooperative Services Mission

Article excerpt

Research on cooperatives is the root and cornerstone of the intellectual services provided to farmers, cooperatives and rural residents by the RBS Cooperative Services program of USDA Rural Development. A range of research activities relating to the economic, legal and social aspects of agricultural cooperatives provides farmers and their cooperatives with a more thorough understanding of the challenges they face in building and maintaining strong cooperative businesses. Research covers such diverse areas as finance, planning, commodity and product marketing, membership roles and relations, organization and governance, compensation, sales and management practices.

The outcomes and products of Cooperative Services research activities are targeted to several audiences, as well as internal uses in Cooperative Services' technical assistance, statistical, cooperative development, and educational activities assigned under the 1926 Cooperative Marketing Act. The first and primary audience is composed of farmers and cooperatives who benefit from using Cooperative Services research results and products within their own organizations. Other important audiences include public policy makers, academic researchers, nonprofit and trade associations and students.

Cooperative Services research projects are conducted by staff members on an individual and study-team basis. Most Cooperative Services staff are involved in various research projects as well as providing technical assistance to cooperatives. Research is frequently conducted in conjunction with landgrant universities through cooperative research agreements and other collaborative efforts. On occasion, research is also conducted in partnership or collaboration with other government agencies or trade associations. Cooperative Services staff are specialists in a diverse range of cooperative and product market areas, and are able to provide research on a wide variety of needs of the farm and cooperative community.

Cooperative Services research findings are disseminated in a variety of ways and methods. In addition to hard copy reports published by USDA, reports are posted on the Internet and staff members submit papers to various academic journals and make presentations before various professional associations. Research findings and products produced under cooperative research agreements with landgrant universities are disseminated through the routes mentioned above, as well as a vast array of university, extension service, and state publications and information systems.

Technical assistance

With its expertise in a broad range of subject matters, Cooperative Services staff can assemble highly effective teams to analyze and assist individual cooperatives in dealing with the unique circumstances they face. …