Economic and regulatory demands on a farm continue to increase, yet there are still only 24 hours in a day. How can an individual farmer keep up with all the demands on their time and money? In the past, one solution to this problem was the farmer-owned cooperative. Farmers banded together to get better deals on buying inputs, get better prices when selling their produce, and finance value-added processing operations. However, some cooperatives failed due to insufficient capitalization, poor management, and lack of understanding among members about the purpose of the cooperative. As a result, the cooperative has received a bad rap. However, cooperative efforts between farms are needed more today than 100 years ago.
Sometimes an age-old solution, when given a new name, sounds more appealing. Instead of creating a traditional cooperative, why not try a strategic alliance? For one, the name sounds better. Also, a strategic alliance model is much more flexible, allowing its participants to avoid some of the common cooperative pitfalls mentioned above. Since 2020, Clemson Agribusiness Team has led a statewide program with help from the US Department of Agriculture and program partners South Carolina State Small Business Development Center, South Carolina Department of Agriculture, and Matson Consulting. This program, called the South Carolina Center for Cooperative and Enterprise Development (SCCCED), helps farmers collaborate to find solutions for business financing, value-added processing, and regulatory red tape. Farmer collaborations can be cooperatives, strategic alliances, or unincorporated farmer coalitions.
Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to people of all ages, regardless of race, color, gender, religion, national origin, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or family status and is an equal opportunity employer.
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