Food Co-op Law

Interest in food cooperatives is growing, due both to increased interest in local, natural, and organic foods and to increased awareness of economic vulnerability in many of our communities.

More and more communities want the products, stability, and accountability that a cooperative can offer. The concept has been put in place in Haiti providing those same benefits.  “The Peasant Movement of Papay (MPP), the country’s largest peasant organization with over 60,000 members, unifies small farmers and rural peasants into farm or craft cooperatives, trains community leaders and conducts agroecological studies. According to a post by their international ally, Grassroots International, the MPP has recaptured 10,000 acres (40.5 sq kilometers) of arable land, planted over 20 million trees and created innovative barriers to mudslides such as stonewall terracing.” (Available at https://foodtank.com/news/2013/06/farming-cooperatives-in-haiti-a-chance-to-advance/).

Cooperatives are businesses owned by their members.

Joel Dahlgren of Black Dog Co-op Law encourages prospective members to incorporate themselves for a “shield” and to learn the relevant laws applicable in their state.

Dahlgren showcases four basic structures available to retail food cooperatives, the choice of which is generally driven by tax, financing, governance and corporate name considerations.

Dahlgren’s table below illustrates these considerations and compares four business structures.

 

 

Sources:

Joel Dahlgren, Legal Primer For Formation of Consumer-Owned Food Cooperatives, available at http://www.foodcoopinitiative.coop/sites/default/files/LegalPrimer.pdf.

(With contributions from Thane Joyal, Bill Gessner, Marilyn Scholl and Stuart Reid)

Publication was made possible through the financial support of Cooperative Development Services, CDS Consulting Co-op and Food Co-op Initiative; with additional funding provided by the USDA Rural Cooperative Development Grant program, through a grant provided to Cooperative Development Services.

 

See Also Black Dog Co-op Law, http://joeldahlgren.blogspot.com/.

Barriers to Business in Haiti

In a study completed by the World Bank in June 2015, Haiti has a new business density of 0.06. This translates to 383 new businesses created over the course of the year. Out of context, these figures mean very little. However, if we look to Haiti’s nearest neighbor, the Dominican Republic, we see that the Dominican Republic enjoys a new business density of 1.2 and 8,061 new businesses created. Why is this important? We know that entrepreneurship is one of the single biggest indicators of economic growth and power. And the intersection of new firm registration, the regulatory environment, and economic growth may lend credence to the voices that suggest there needs to be a focus not only on physical infrastructure, but also on legal, regulatory, and administrative infrastructures.

What stands in the way of new businesses that can create new jobs and spur the construction of physical infrastructure? Perhaps, one of the greatest and simplest areas of concern is the length of time to become formally incorporated. It takes an average of 97 days to register a new business in Haiti; seventy-eight of those days are simply to register the business with the Department of Commerce and receive an authorization of operations. The average time for new businesses to be operational in Latin America and the Caribbean is 29.4 days. In the Dominican Republic, the average time is 14.5 days. These comparisons are not an attempt to join the seemingly prevailing voices stating that Haiti cannot compete in or contribute to the world economy. These comparisons are made to bring attention to the areas (legal, regulatory, and administrative infrastructures), where innovation is needed to break the cycle of poverty in Haiti.

* This article was created using information from the wonderful World Bank Doing Business database. Any errors are my own.

 

 

Lovely Bonhomme Headshot-LG

 

Lovely  is a first-year student at CUNY School of Law, which graduates public interest attorneys with the motto of practicing “law in the service of human needs”. She is a first generation American of Haitian descent. She has a particular interest in corporate law with a focus on infrastructure and energy projects in emerging markets and developing countries. More broadly, she hopes to contribute to the areas of international rule of law and human rights.