Federal Budget Stalls Economic Engine: cutting Co-operative Development Initiative and starving Rural and Co-operatives Secretariat will undermine rural economy, says NFU
The National Farmers Union deplores the federal budget cuts that will end the Co-operative Development Initiative (CDI) and eliminate two-thirds of the positions in the Rural and Co-operatives Secretariat. The CDI gives communities the resources to develop new co-operatives which become successful businesses in rural Canada. Rural co-operatives increase employment, build local skills and knowledge, and provide needed goods and services — and their activities support other businesses in local economies across the country. By draining the gas out of this proven community development engine in rural Canada, the federal government is undermining the economy and putting rural Canadians at a disadvantage.
Joan Brady, NFU National Women’s President, expressed her dismay at the recent announcements. “As a farmer and someone who works tirelessly in my community to build resilience and community capacity, I am very concerned at the loss of this very valuable program.” She continued, “Recently, I was privileged to attend an international conference that highlighted co-operatives and social enterprise and their positive effects at social, economic and environmental levels. At the time, I was hopeful that we could replicate some of these international success stories here in Canada. I am afraid that without considerable understanding and support from the federal government we will miss out on these grassroots opportunities to grow our economy and society.”
The United Nations has declared 2012 as The International Year of Co-operatives, and calls upon governments to take measures aimed at creating a supportive environment for the development of co-operatives. The UN resolution specifically notes the potential role of co-operative development in the improvement of the social and economic conditions of rural communities. But instead of celebrating and building them, the federal government is poised to abandon Canada’s proven rural co-operative development programs in 2012.
“The federal government believes that innovation will improve our economic situation – but innovation is about much more than simply commercializing science. It is about putting new ideas into action and empowering each Canadian,” said Cammie Harbottle, NFU Youth President. “That is what the CDI had the ability to do. Now, new co-ops will not be started by creative, energetic youth because they won’t get the valuable support that these programs have provided. This is a loss for all of Canada. The constant drive for expanding global trade in agriculture at the expense of community economic development of our own rural communities is short-sighted and something that we will regret.”
The NFU calls upon the federal government to honor the UN Year of Co-operatives resolution and reinstate full funding for the CDI and the Rural and Co-operatives Secretariat.
For more information:
Joan Brady, NFU Women’s President: (306) 652-9465
Cammie Harbottle, NFU Youth President: (902) 657-2532
UN Resolution http://www.copac.coop/publications/un/a64r136e.pdf
Some of the co-operatives that have benefited from the support of the Co-operative Development Initiative are:
Sun Farm Kitchens Co-operative, Moncton, New Brunswick, will expand its market in nutritious, local foods with the use of a solar-powered kitchen trailer.
Northeastern New Brunswick Wild Blueberry Producers Association, Paquetville, New Brunswick, will develop the business plan for a new pollination service and recruit enough new members to reach the minimum-use threshold of 1,000 hives.
Coopérative d’énergie renouvelable du Nord-Ouest ltée, St-Basile, New Brunswick, will carry out studies and consultations towards setting up a 15 megawatt wind farm in north-western New Brunswick.
East Coast Organic Milk Co-operative Ltd., Truro, Nova Scotia, is developing the capacity of organic milk co-operatives in Nova Scotia.
Connecting People for Health Co-operative Ltd., Truro, Nova Scotia, will implement a new model to meet rural health needs by using internet technology.
Coop de solidarité Terre Locale, Lambton, Québec, is a multi-stakeholder co-operative that will produce, market and transform local products.
Pine River Cheese and Butter Co-operative, Ripley, Ontario, will diversify its production by developing non-traditional cheeses to meet new and emerging market demand.
Eat Local Sudbury Co-operative Inc., Sudbury, Ontario, will examine options for future expansion, which would allow a greater increase in the amount of locally-grown food purchased and produced within a 150 mile radius of Sudbury.
Reduce the Juice Foundation, Orangeville, Ontario, will implement the Headwaters Renewable Energy Project, which will develop a consumers’ co-operative in the renewable energy sector.
Western Feed Grain Development Co-operative Ltd., Minto, Manitoba, will explore market opportunities for its grain grower members through the development and study of seed varieties that can meet current and emerging needs.
Thickwood Hills Business & Learning Network (for the Riverside Market Garden Working Group), Hafford, Saskatchewan will establish a worker co-op on the Flying Dust First Nation to expand an existing market garden enterprise, establish a greenhouse and develop other enterprises.
Alberta Rhodiola Rosea Growers Organization NGC Inc., Thorsby, Alberta, will overhaul its business model and organizational structure, converting it from a volunteer farmer-driven initiative to a more formalized co-operative business entity.
West Kootenay Herb Growers Co-operative (WKHGC), Wynndell, British Columbia, will expand its operations to recruit at least 25 new producers from East Kootenay, a new region for co-operatives. As well, the group will explore the feasibility of a new system of sharing farm machinery among members, and will develop a communication plan and promotional tools for the co-operative.
Cortes Natural Food Co-op, Manson’s Landing, British Columbia, will examine the feasibility of purchasing and renovating an existing building and diversifying activities through the addition of new revenue centres.