Food Co-ops Can benefit From National Society of Accountants for Cooperatives

Two years ago, I attended my first Consumer Cooperative Management Association in Sacramento. The event was educational and eye-opening. But when I started looking to network with other finance types like myself, it took all weekend to find one other controller/accounting manager. This led me to joining the National Society of Accountants for Cooperatives (NSAC).

Throughout the accounting industry, it is always a challenge to keep in touch with all the draft exposures, tax regulations, current audits and court judgments. The various regulations and court decisions could take forty hours a week simply to scan them all to see if there are any that could affect your company.

Before I traveled to Minnesota in August 1996 for the annual NSAC meeting, colleagues from other grocery co-ops said they felt it was "only for agricultural co-ops." But what I found was a large, professional group with many connections in the various regulatory bodies. This convention updated me on all current tax regulations and drafts. They dealt with pensions, what's going on in Washington, economic outlooks, financial presentations, cooperative fraud, financing in the 21st century, and much more. As a matter of fact, there was only one session out of the four days that was specifically for agricultural business. On the second day I found another finance person from a grocery co-op. For grocery co-ops, the networking potential of this meeting is improving.

The NSAC was started by agricultural cooperatives in 1936. But we all can benefit from this society and its meetings. NSAC has as much to offer us as we do them.

To take advantage of all they have to offer, someone from your co-op should have membership in the NSAC so you can receive their publications. The Cooperative Accountant can help keep you up to date.

But no publication can cover all the changes afoot. So we gather at the annual NSAC meeting for networking and a chance to catch up with all the happenings. Yes, there is sometimes a need to sift through a slight agricultural bent in some of the sessions. But we all are interested in the tax handling of patronage refunds, of classification of member shares, of current audit issue the IRS is going after, and what Congress is doing that will affect our bottom lines.

NSAC also has good contacts with legislative and regulatory bodies in Washington and is there to lobby for us.

NSAC is a professional society of about 2,000 individuals. Each member is automatically a member of one of 11 regional chapters, which offer one or two workshops a year similar to the national programs described earlier. These chapter meetings are great for networking and provide opportunities for getting involved in program and other leadership positions. Annual NSAC and local chapter membership is around $100, depending on the amount of chapter dues.

I hope to see more grocery co-ops represented at the annual meeting in Monterey, California, August 4-7, 1997. Contact the NSAC office at 6320 August Dr., #800, Springfield, VA 22150; 703/569-3088.

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