No country produces the agricultural bounty that the US does. We eat better, at lower costs, than anywhere else – and most of that food is produced through farmer owned cooperatives. That’s why you want to meet Chuck Conner, CEO of NCFC, the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives.
Ask Conner what the number one issue facing his members is and the answer is blunt: immigration. The estimate is that the nation’s farms are worked on by over one million workers lacking proper documentation to work legally in the United States. Take them away and, poof, there goes the agricultural bounty because those workers comprise over half of the workforce on farms.
“Congress can’t seem to grapple with this,” said Conner and he chose his words carefully. But also honestly.
Conner also tells in this podcast why a generation ago it was not common to proudly wave the flag of a farmers cooperative – and today that fact is proudly pronounced as more consumers want to know what where their food comes from.
Want to know how to keep eating right? Listen to this podcast as Conner takes us on a tour of agri-business for the past century.
From the Ukraine to Ireland and Dominica, this podcast travels the globe with Mike Reuter, executive director of the Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions, as he shares stories of the challenges faced by credit unions and also the generous willingness of other credit unions executives to help. Exhibit one may be the rebuilding of the Dominica credit union sector after that island’s economy was flattened in a 2017 hurricane. Credit union execs want to help and they do. It’s an inspiring podcast that shines a light on what’s special about credit unions.
Stay tuned. In a week or two a second podcast will post with another WOCCU executive as we travel around the world to see the challenges internationally and how the US fits in.
Want to control what you eat? Of course you do. Join a food co-op and become a member-owner.
Across the country there are maybe 350 to 400 food co-ops and, said Stuart Reid, executive director of the Food Co-op Initiative, many more are attempting to form. That’s his turf. The organization has helped some 140 food co-ops form in the past 11 years. Reid knows what a co-op needs to do to actually open and he tells how in this podcast.
A lot has to do with money but Reid tells how many would-be food co-ops are finding support from governments at various levels. That’s encouraging.
He also tells why food co-ops matter. It comes down to really serving the community and that’s what food co-ops do.
This podcast is everything you always wanted to know about grocery co-ops but didn’t know whom to ask. Ask Stuart Reid – that’s what I did and he gives the details.
In spots the audio quality is scratchy. It’s audible but it may sound like an old vinyl record on a wobbly turntable. Sorry. Just the vagaries of Voip.
What banking futurist Brett King paints is a dystopian picture of financial services tomorrow where, increasingly, consumers want frictionless money transactions, they don’t give a hoot about banks vs. non banks, and they have no interest in a relationship with a one stop financial services provider.
Credit unions still think they are special. Think again, warns King.
What matters today is digital. Period. Sure, King, as the founder of digital bank Moven, has a bias.
But he very probably is right.
Financial institutions are getting left behind as the biggest banks get bigger – lots bigger – and fintechs gobble up profitable slices of the financial services pie.
Along the way in this provocative conversation, King talks about the new Apple credit card, why Apple Pay has stalled, and the inevitability of real time banking.
It’s a look into tomorrow.
And, yes, it may sound like a horror film.
But at least when you know what’s ahead you can start preparing for it.
Teresa Freeborn, CEO of Xceed Financial Credit Union, chairs the CUNA effort which she – make no mistake – sees as crucial in the longterm survival and prosperity of credit unions.
The campaigns blends research with marketing – much of it online – to reach out to a generation of consumers that simply may not even consider credit unions as a financial services option.
Ouch. It hurts to be ignored. But that is a credit union reality and that also is the why of the CUNA campaign.
A central mission of the campaign: raising consumer awareness of the benefits of credit unions as a different, better category of financial services providers. That’s ambitious. But it just may be critical in the industry’s survival.
In this podcast Freeborn tells the story of the campaign’s launch, it’s current status, and it’s hoped for future. She also blends in her perspective as the longtime CEO of a large credit union.
Alex Stone’s business is this: helping new cooperatives to start and helping existing ones to mature and do better. That’s the core mission of CooperationWorks! where she serves as executive director.
How is she doing? The podcast opens with a simple question: how many new co-ops form in a year? Stone explains exactly why that question is a lot harder to answer than you might think.
For Stone cooperatives got into her being early, during her student days at UC Berkeley where she lived in co-op housing and was also involved in a food collective.
Cooperatives, she saw, just work better in many cases.
That’s why she relishes her role in helping all kinds of cooperatives and in this wide ranging podcast she discusses worker owned cooperatives, housing co-ops, grocery co-ops and a lot more.
A key CooperationWorks! function is providing training to would-be cooperators and also board members. We just aren’t born knowing how to prosper in a cooperative system – but we can learn how to do it.
Another role of the organization is gathering data about co-ops but, as Stone readily admits, data is slim in many cases.
Buckle up for a fast ride into cooperatives today and tomorrow.
Don’t believe me. Believe Frank Shipper, an emeritus professor at Salisbury University in Maryland and editor of a book, Shared Entrepreneurship.
Shipper is a scholar who has spent years studying worker owned businesses – both ESOPs and worker cooperatives – and he really is convinced that in many cases worker owned businesses just outwork their conventionally structured competitors.
Why aren’t there more worker owned businesses? Partly it’s ignorance. Most of us just don’t know that much about them, and many of us confuse them with communes.
There also are issues around raising capital, especially with worker cooperatives.
Shipper, for his part, has labored hard to dispel the ignorance. And that’s what this podcast is about.
Consider this podcast a crash course on credit union lobbying, 2019 style. Our instructor: Patrick Conway, CEO of the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association, a very large league with upwards of 370 members.
PCUA lobbies both in Harrisburg, the state capital, and in Washington, DC.
A lot of what PCUA does however could be considered credit union education. For instance, PCUA has played a lead role in the new Philadelphia ID card – designed to give Philadelphia residents a low cost ID card. Will it be adequate for opening a new account at a credit union? That’s still being sorted out and PCUA is in the mix, offering education and counsel to its members.
PCUA is doing likewise with cannabis banking, a topic of significant interest to Pennsylvania credit unions.
Along the way we also talk about credit unions haves and the have nots and, in Pennsylvania, assured Conway, the big credit unions offer plenty of assistance to smaller institutions.
Other topics on the agenda: credit union tax exemption, the CUNA-league relationship, and what credit union can do to win greater consumer acceptance.
Probably the single most despised charge at financial institutions is the overdraft fee – and a NerdWallet survey of the exact charges imposed by a selection of mid-sized (Navy Federal) through mammoth (Chase) institutions found fees at $20 (Navy Federal) and as high as $39 (KeyBank).
$35 is a particularly common charge in the survey.
Ask yourself this. You present a Visa card at WalMart and the card is declined (and you know it’s because the balance is overextended and a payment is late). Does the cashier say, “Sorry, bud, card declined and now you owe us another $35 for being a nuisance.”
That does not happen.
You walk out without your purchase but you aren’t dinged for a nuisance charge.
Overdrafts are different – charges are the norm – even tho at the financial institution all that happens is that bits and bytes shuffle around on a computer screen.
In the olden days, yes, a bounced check was a hassle. It generated lots of paperwork. Many hands of many clerks got involved. Very probably a fee was justified.
Not today. It’s all automated.
A few innovative, digital first institutions (Simple and Chime for instance) already charge no overdraft fees. More will follow. But very probably many legacy institutions will cling to the fees because it’s easy money.
Some credit unions have worked up their own ways to help members dodge overdrafts – Hope Credit Union tell about its tools in this podcast – but many smaller institutions don’t know exactly how to handle this issue.
So they charge overdraft fees, the old school style.
It hurts consumers. It’s terrible for a financial institution’s reputation. But it is easy money.
So now third party work arounds are in the mix.
For the consumer the message is simple: you can keep your legacy checking account but make yourself immune to overdraft fees.
Meet Grain Technology, a Northern California based start up on a mission to stamp out overdraft fees and, in the process, help thin file consumers create credit histories. Win win.
For the participating credit union, it’s plug and play. The member links the sharedraft account to Grain and Grain takes care of the rest.
And Grain has been invited to play in the Arizona fintech sandbox where it is allowed to pilot its tools freed from some regulatory constraints. The company already has plans to offer its tools to students at Arizona State, the nation’s biggest university.
Exactly what does Grain do? In a conversation with Carl Memnon, COO of Grain and a co-founder (hear the podcast here), the details emerged.
The building blocks are that Grain takes a new look at the consumer’s spending habits, income, expenses. It generates a proprietary algorithm. This lets it predict when a consumer’s linked checking account is likely to go into overdraft and Grain can offer an injection of cash to inoculate against an overdraft fee.
The charge? Grain sees its APR ranging from 12% to 15.99% and it envisions cash injections typically ranging from maybe $25 to a few hundred dollars.
Result one: no more overdraft fees.
Result two: the consumer builds a credit history that Grain will report to monitoring agencies. For a thin file young adult that just may be a real blessing. Especially since many of those generations are averse to using conventional credit instruments.
Right now Grain is looking to partner with credit unions that want to help members sidestep overdraft fees. Most of those consumers, said Memnon, probably will come from the money center banks (with overdraft fees typically around $35 per incident).
What would prompt a B of A customer to ditch that institution in favor of a much smaller credit union? Just one overdraft fee could do it. Especially when the recruitment pitch is that this tool will stop overdraft fees, period.
Memnon said Grain also envisions sharing its interest income with participating institutions.
All while essentially living up to the credit union mission of helping consumers manage their money better.
The deep dive into Workers Cooperatives continues in the Cooperators Podcast. Last week we talked with Esteban Kelly of the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives. This week it’s Melissa Hoover, executive director of Democracy at Work Institute, self described think and do tank that is doing a lot of thinking about worker cooperatives and how to form more of them, and how to position them to succeed.
Hoover throws out lots of big ideas in this podcast but a key thought is that just maybe for many of us, as home ownership becomes but a dream, the real way to personal equity is a share of a business.
According to her for many workers that just may be a new, 21st century reality and it is a compelling driver for the belief that we will be seeing a surge in the numbers of new worker cooperatives.
Many of those co-ops likely will be in service businesses. Healthcare. Home care. Gateway jobs into the economy and if the worker can also be an owner, how great is that.
A technical point. We started this podcast using one service but ran afoul with technical difficulties. In this podcast you will hear my recap of that short conversation. And then you will hear the actual podcast recording – using a different service – with Hoover.
I kept that four minute starter recording however. For those who want to hear it, here’s the link. It’s audible but the clicks and strange noises are annoying.