The Editor Notes
Postings: education, evidence, equity
Sid Pobihushchy offered thoughtful perspectives on co-op education and values at the June 2003 food co-op conference (see the July-August CG), and his remarks have now been posted at the CGIN (Cooperative Grocers' Information Network) website: www.cgin.coop.ccma/c637.html. Other documents located there give further remarks by Sid on cooperative values as well as comments from U.S. participants following his speech at the conference.
In case your government servants missed the news, an October (Co-op Month) announcement highlighted strong public expectations of accountability and ethics in cooperatives, following a survey sponsored by the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA) and a coalition of major national cooperative associations. The survey results provide additional evidence that among members of the public, whether coop members or not, cooperatives generate more trust and accountability than investorowned corporations. For more, contact Jeannine Kenney: [email protected].
According to a NCBA alert, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) has proposed a new rule concerning classification of equity vs. debt that could affect many cooperatives, in particular those co-ops with frequent and routine early redemptions of equity to the estates of deceased members. Said the NCBA,
"Since the application of this accounting standard could mean that much of what is now classified as equity on the balance sheets of many cooperatives would be reclassified as a liability, many cooperatives could find themselves in technical default of their loan agreements. The boards of cooperatives reclassifying their allocated member equity to the liability category could also find it increasingly difficult to exercise any legal authority over redemptions of equity since it would no longer be considered a discretionary expenditure."
For more information, contact Richard Dines, [email protected].
- "Agriculture is one of the few sectors where the United States runs a positive trade balance, and is the most protected sector of the American economy [Predictably for mainstream media, this overlooks the even more "protected" weapons industry.] with $20 billion in annual subsidies for grains fed to chickens, cows and hogs." (NYT, 9/30/2003) It is encouraging to see the rising protests of Third World nations, covered in this edition's WTO/Cancun report, along with the rising domestic recognition of environmental and budgetary damage from these U.S. subsidies. Yet those of us advocating a different direction for agriculture face monumental opponents, including those who are most concerned with the trade balance.
- Weather disasters may actually be the earliest way many people feel the consequences of the present U.S.-led "the future be damned" approach to resource management. Global warming is making the world climate unstable. The World Meteorological Society, a Geneva-based body of scientists that monitors the weather services of 185 countries, said that this year's weather events were far beyond the normal and included many extreme storms as well as temperature and rainfall variancesÑand that global warming from human activities is a key factor. For background, see www.usgcrp.gov and www.pointcarbon.com.
- Goldie Caughlin, the longtime education manager at PCC Natural Markets and a member of the National Organic Standards Board, reminds us that "another world is possible" in her excellent column, "Insights," published in the October PCC Sound Consumer. The phrase is common in Cuba, where she visited recently accompanying a U.S. tour group sponsored by the Institute for Food and Development Policy. "The U.S. sells large quantities of food to Cuba at top dollar and Cuba-which cannot reciprocate with sales to the U.S. since the trade barrier is a one-way, locked door-struggles to keep her balance. But Cuba has taken a scientific approach to restructuring its agriculture as sustainable and non-chemical based, organic being the goal, with synthetic chemical inputs less than half of what they were a decade ago and still dropping. Cuba has been greening its cities and countryside with natural and organic agriculture." (For further readings on Cuba, see: www.foodfirst.org and www.newfarm.org/international/features/0703/cubaoped.shtml.) She concludes: "Another world IS possible. It absolutely is. It has to be, as current patterns are not sustainable."