The USDA Rural Cooperate Development Grant Program is distributing grant money and some of it is going to the University of Nebraska -Lincoln. Business Program Specialist with the USDA Joan Scheel tells us $224,982 is Nebraska’s share and the grant will be used to provide technical assistance to groups developing cooperatively owned businesses.
“And their mission is to work with rural areas to help groups form to market their value added products. So, those value added products can be something in the line of food or floral but they work with those groups and try to get the groups cooperatively market their products.”
Scheel uses the example of a tomato producer and how cooperative partnerships can help them distribute their produce to bigger markets.
“Sometimes they just don’t have the volume of product that is needed to go out and market that product to grocery stores so if four or five farmers are raising tomatoes or other food products and they go together, they may have enough volume product to get into a grocery chain or a local grocery store to supply tomatoes. So, when they work together, they have more volume that they can approach some of these different places with their products to market their product.”
Scheel says the Cooperative Development Center helps those with existing businesses as well as those looking at establishing one.
“The Cooperative Development Center is more than willing to work with people interested in forming cooperatives or interested in how a cooperative is formed. The Cooperative Development Center can help with things like setting your bylaws and setting up your legal structure.”
Scheel says cooperative businesses help more than just the food producer. It also helps grocery outlets and other food vendors buy fresh and buy local.