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Iowa State University Extension


Co-ops can check ‘data warehouse’ for financial information

Roger Ginder

No more waiting up to 18 months for accurate -- and old -- comparative financial data. Soon Iowa co-op boards and managers will be checking the “data warehouse” to compare their co-op’s current performance to others throughout the state, said Roger Ginder, ISU Extension agricultural economist. ISU Extension and the Iowa Institute of Cooperatives are bringing them Cooperative Metrics, a benchmarking system that provides real-time financial information.

Cooperative Metrics, a Boston-based data management cooperative, developed the system for natural foods and drywall installer co-ops, Ginder said. “We piloted the system with six grain and farm supply marketing co-ops. They uploaded their trial balances each quarter. The data then were placed in a data warehouse in a decentralized form incorporating all accounts in all firms into a common chart of accounts. An individual co-op’s data cannot be identified. To preserve anonymity, only averages of similar co-ops are provided for comparison. Individual co-ops can call in anonymous comparative data from similar co-ops for any quarter or a rolling average year consisting of the prior four quarters. The data come back in the precise format their accounting system uses.”

The data will help co-ops identify best practices that reduce cost and increase efficiency. Ginder also noted, “The ability to access these data on a timelier basis will be especially valuable when events such as hedge to arrive, Starlink or the more recent run-up in grain prices occur.”

Thirteen Iowa co-ops were added in June. An additional 20 to 30 Iowa co-ops should be in the system by Sept. 30. Then co-ops in other states will be allowed to join. The more co-ops that participate, the better the data quality becomes, Ginder said. For more information contact Ginder, ginder@iastate.edu.

This article appeared in July 2007 -- From Jack Payne Newsletter