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Inaugural meeting of Interagency Working Group on Cooperative Development unifies federal agencies on co-op issues

usda-inter-agency-500 3359bOn Tuesday, October 13, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) held the first meeting of the much-anticipated Interagency Working Group on Cooperative Development (IWGCD) at the USDA headquarters building in Washington, D.C.

More than 15 federal agencies were represented at this meeting, including the White House Rural Council, the Federal Emergency Management Administration, Health and Human Services, Internal Revenue Service, Small Business Administration and the Departments of Interior, Justice, Labor, Education, and Commerce, just to name a few. 

“We are energized by this historic meeting that advances the role of cooperatives in the nation’s economy at the federal level,” said Pat Sterner, COO of Domestic Operations for NCBA CLUSA. “We worked hard on behalf of our members and co-ops across the country to get this provision in the Farm Bill and congratulate the USDA and partners in making this working group a reality.” 

The working group was created as part of the larger H.R. 2642 bill, formally titled the Agriculture Act of 2014 and included an NCBA CLUSA-requested provision that authorized, “the Secretary of Agriculture to coordinate and chair an interagency working group to foster cooperative development and ensure coordination with Federal agencies and national and local cooperative organizations that have cooperative programs and interests.”

In his opening remarks, Doug O’Brien, Senior Policy Advisor for Rural Affairs with the White House Domestic Policy Council, brought attention to the fact that “cooperatives have answers to many of society's, and this country's, greatest challenges [and] are particularly well positioned to navigate and respond better to those challenges.”

NCBA CLUSA, in partnership with USDA and others, began working on this initiative more than two years ago by convening the Cooperative Leadership Coalition, comprised of national organizations such as National Farmers Union, National Cooperative Bank, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, and National Council of Farmer Cooperatives. Together with cooperatives from the local, regional and national levels, across all sectors, the group identified the purpose and key responsibilities of the IWGCD: 

• Enhanced collaboration between the federal agencies and national, state and local cooperative organizations.

• Enhanced dissemination of information from the federal agencies out to cooperative organizations and individuals wanting to be engaged in cooperative development.

• Creation of a website to record the information that is shared at the IWGCD, making it available nationally.

The IWGCD will be hosted on a quarterly basis by various federal agencies. Each meeting will feature a different topic on the issue of cooperatives in the economy, allowing each federal agency to provide an update on how they are working with co-ops and sharing highlights of the things that they are most engaged with currently in the cooperative space. A block of time has been earmarked at the end of each quarterly meeting to provide a space for interaction between the federal agencies and engagement with the national cooperative organization partners. 

This coordination among agencies at the federal level provides an opportunity to work through broad ranging cooperative development strategies and elicits effective partnerships providing the federal government the opportunity to be a better partner and better support for cooperatives. More importantly, this group will provide a network that can reveal the essence of how essential cooperatives are to the nation.

The next meeting of the IWGCD is scheduled for January 2016 and will be hosted by the Small Business Administration.

We’re extending CPC early-bird registration rates until October 9!

cpc-logo-500 d7053There’s just over a week left to take advantage of early-bird pricing for the second annual Cooperative Professionals Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota, from November 9 – 11.

Register on or before Friday, October 9 to lock in the $350 early-bird rate for NCBA CLUSA members ($475 for non-members). The Early-Bird Full Registration Package includes conference materials and admission to all sessions, networking events and meals. Single-day and student registration packages are also available. Click here to explore options.

October 9 is also the deadline to reserve your space in NCBA CLUSA’s Room Block at the Renaissance Minneapolis Hotel, The Depot. To make a reservation by phone, call (612) 375-1700 and ask for the National Cooperative Business Association – Cooperative Professionals Conference Room Block.

The CPC discounted room rate of $179 per night (plus taxes and fees) applies to a single or double room and is valid for all reservations made on or before October 9, 2015. Space is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis. 

The 2015 Co-op Professionals Conference will advance an emerging platform for professional development within the co-op movement. This conference is designed specifically for professionals who work for or with co-ops, including attorneys, accountants, CPAs, financial and investment advisors, insurance advisors, legislative staff and law students. Continuing Legal Education (CLE) and Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credit is pending.

To view a complete schedule of events, click here.

“Good is the Enemy of Great”: NPCC keynote speaker Evan Hackel promises “ugly but necessary” discussion on reinventing purchasing co-ops

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NCBA CLUSA is pleased to announce that lifelong cooperator Evan Hackel will present the keynote address at the 2015 National Purchasing Cooperatives Conference on Tuesday, October 6 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Click here to register!

Called “Good is the Enemy of Great,” Hackel’s keynote will challenge conference participants to reinvent the purchasing cooperative sector by asking critical questions: Do you provide real value to your membership? Are you helping your membership survive into the future?

“Myths will be busted, egos bruised and minds blown,” Hackel said.

Hackel’s experience with cooperatives began early; as a teenager, he helped sort groceries at a local food co-op in his small town in Vermont. Later, he worked at his family’s appliance business, a member of the Key Cooperative.  

Over the past 30 years, Hackel has gained extensive management experience across cooperative sectors. In the early 90s, he was brought in to run, manage and build a new leadership team for a large cooperative in the wake of the departure of its startup team. Hackel managed CCA Global Partners’ purchase of the bankrupt Flooring American franchise system, converting it into a cooperative and increasing business from $700 million to $2 billion in just four years.    

Hackel also served as president of Carpet One, CCA’s largest division with more than $3 billion in sales operating in four countries. Additionally, he managed the CCA relationship with a cooperative of 200 floor covering stores in the United Kingdom. Hackel was one of the founders and board members of the Lenders One cooperative that today originates more than $180 billion in mortgages. Hackel also oversaw CCA’s creation of the Savvi Formalwear cooperative and the Biking Cooperative, and was one of the founders and first president of BizUnite.

Currently, Hackel is the founder and CEO of Ingage Consulting, the foremost provider of specialized management consulting services for leaders of franchises, cooperatives, buying groups and dealer networks. In this role, he has worked with more than 20 cooperatives, many of which will be represented at the 2015 National Purchasing Cooperatives Conference.
Additionally, Hackel is a professional public speaker presenting at numerous events every year, including last year’s NPCC in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Evan holds a degree in Economics from Colorado College, an MBA in Finance and General Management degrees from Boston College. He and his wife have three children and reside in Reading, Massachusetts.

Hackel’s keynote is generously sponsored by BlueVolt, a learning management system solutions provider helping organizations increase profitability by making it easy to deliver effective, comprehensive training programs that improve the productivity of employees and partners.

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$10.5 million grant from New Zealand Government expands NCBA CLUSA’s coffee, cocoa portfolio in Southeast Asia

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NCBA CLUSA is the recipient of a $10.5 million grant from the New Zealand Government to support economic development in East Timor by augmenting household income through quality coffee and cocoa production.

The five-year project, called Coffee and Cocoa Agribusiness Opportunities (CACAO), will be implemented in partnership with Cooperativa Café Timor (CCT), East Timor’s leading private-sector employer and one of the largest single-source suppliers of certified organic Arabica coffee in the world.

Established with support from NCBA CLUSA in 1994, CCT offers its 22,000 member-owners access to global markets—including Starbucks—better prices and healthcare through its network of health clinics serving remote mountain coffee-growing communities outside the Ministry of Health’s coverage area.

Under CACAO, CCT will identify 19,000 Arabica, Robusta and cocoa farmers in the country’s western districts to participate in the project. Each farmer will receive seedlings and tools, including saws and pruning shears that, according to the grant agreement, are “critical” for effective farm rehabilitation, but largely unavailable in East Timor.

Participating farmers will also receive training from existing CCT extension staff on environmentally sustainable practices such as composting, erosion prevention and biological pest control that are compatible with organic and other ethical and sustainable production certifications. CACAO will work with select groups of local farmers to establish demonstration farms used for practical, on-field training.

The project will prioritize the integration of activities that support women’s economic empowerment. With its focus on economic development, CACAO is expected to create close to 5,000 on-farm and seasonal jobs by its end.

CACAO comes on the heels of NCBA CLUSA’s USAID-funded Consolidating Cooperative Business Recovery (COCAR) project, which closed in 2014. COCAR oversaw the planting of 3.7 million coffee seedlings and rehabilitated more than 12,000 coffee farms. The project also introduced value chains for spices, cocoa and other commodities in high demand globally. The rehabilitation of coffee farms that began under COCAR has the potential to double coffee exports and farmer incomes over the next decade.

The National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International (NCBA CLUSA) is the trade association for cooperative businesses in the United States and an international development organization. NCBA CLUSA provides cross-sector advocacy, education and technical assistance that helps cooperative businesses thrive. Celebrating 100 years of supporting cooperatives, NCBA CLUSA continues to advance and protect cooperative enterprises, highlighting the impact that cooperatives have in bettering the lives of individuals, families and communities. Since 1953, NCBA CLUSA has worked in over 85 countries in the areas of cooperative development, food security and nutrition, agricultural development, community-based health, natural resources management, and empowerment of smallholder farmers, women and youth.



For nearly 100 years, NCBA CLUSA has encouraged communities to live cooperatively, harnessing the uncommon power of common purpose. NCBA CLUSA applies cooperative principles in development, advocacy, and education.

Association Services

  Thomas Bowen,  Director of Membership Click Here to Email Thomas Bowen 202.383.5461                         The National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA (NCBA CLUSA) represents a cross-sector co-op community of more than 40,000 businesses that control over $3 trillion in assets.  We unite co-ops by promoting the cooperative business model, driving cross-sector collaboration, and being the national ‘voice’ for cooperatives to raise the profile of co-ops everywhere. Our work is grounded in our three-part mission:
 To raise the profile of cooperatives
 To promote and protect the cooperative business enterprise model To drive cross-sector collaboration among cooperatives in keeping with Principle 6 of the Cooperative Principles       We believe in collaboration, and in bringing value to the many efforts already underway through our cooperative development partners and intermediaries that are doing the necessary ‘boots on the ground’ cooperative development work. In our role as facilitator, convener, and financing partner, we assist our partners in their work with strengthening the structure, reach and financial sustainability of existing cooperatives, as well as efforts to establish new cooperatives.  We are collaborating with Cooperation Works! and Cooperative Development Centers across the country to develop more diverse – and sustainable – funding for their important work. We are responding to local and regional nationwide that are interested in establishing Cooperative Business Associations, with the intent of creating local cooperative ‘chambers of commerce’ to drive the financial success of cooperatives in these associations, raise the profile of cooperatives in their communities, and foster cross-collaboration among cooperatives. Using the power of cooperative development work and our collective cooperative voice, NCBA CLUSA advocates on Capitol Hill on behalf of cooperatives, fighting to maintain or increase government funding for cooperative programs and securing access to legislation that protects the cooperative business enterprise model. Throughout the United States, NCBA CLUSA is working with cooperatives and cooperative development organizations to embed cooperatives in their local and regional economies. With our partners NCBA CLUSA supports cooperative development, funds cooperative education, and promotes the need for research to continually strengthen the case for cooperatives in our economy. OUR FOCUS NCBA CLUSA takes very seriously its role as CONVENER of cooperatives and cooperators across the country. ADVOCACY NCBA CLUSA is also working hard to amplify the voice of cooperatives at the national level, specifically through increased advocacy work on behalf of cooperatives sectors.  For example, NCBA CLUSA sent letters to members of the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees pressing for tax reform to retain the tax exemption for credit unions. Likewise, through the efforts of NCBA CLUSA and partners, a significant shift in the government’s fiscal year 2014 spending bill has made provision for $5.8 million for the Rural Cooperative Development Grant (RCDG) and an additional $3 million for the Small Socially-Disadvantaged Producer Grant (SSDPG). Moving forward, we plan to establish a congressional Cooperative Caucus as a forum to brief legislators on cooperatives and cooperative sectors. CONFERENCES NCBA CLUSA hosts and/or supports several conferences throughout the year: 2016 NCBA CLUSA Annual Cooperatives Conference, May 2nd-4th, Washington DC Consumer Cooperative Management Association (CCMA):  June 9-11 in Western Massachusetts Co-op Week (in partnership with the National Cooperative Bank and the Cooperative Development Foundation):  May 2-6 in Washington, D.C. 2016 Cooperative Professionals Conference, September 19th-21st, Miami, Florida 2016 National Purchasing Cooperatives Conference, September 19th-21st, Miami, Florida   COOPERATIVE BUSINESS ASSOCIATIONS (CBA'S) We are working with several groups throughout the country that are organizing to establish CBAs.  To support these efforts NCBA CLUSA is providing financial support, human resources and business planning to launch what can be thought of as local “co-op chambers of commerce”, with missions to promote the co-op business model, grow the bottom-line of cooperatives in local communities, and engage more consumers as co-op members.  We are focused on four locations: Austin, Texas  (Austin Cooperative Business Association) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia Area Cooperative Association) Upstate New York Western Massachusetts (Valley Cooperative Business Association   COOPERATIVE BUSINESS SERVICES We are committed to raising the profile of cooperatives as economic drivers in our communities.  To that end we will be providing services such as internal and external “cooperative assessments” for members interested in (internally) better integrating the cooperative principles into their business plans and operations, and (externally) leveraging cross-sector relationships to promote their businesses to a broader base of consumers.  We will be utilizing the Blueprint for the Cooperative Decade in this work with our members, with a projected outcome of better identifying and communicating the economic power of cooperatives in given communities.   COOPERATIVE BUSINESS ROUNDTABLE In 2014 we will be establishing the Cooperative Business Roundtable, which will be a convening of CEOs from our larger members.  We have recognized the opportunity to bring CEOs together to network with each other about the opportunities and challenges for cooperatives in today’s economy as well as those they face in their own cooperatives.  Plans are being made to launch the inaugural session of the Roundtable during Co-op Week in Washington, D.C. (May 5 – 9, 2014).     OUR PARTNERSHIP WITH CooperationWorks AND THE COOPERATIVE DEVELOPMENT CENTERS CooperationWorks! Is the center for excellence for cooperative business development. They are a dynamic and innovative national cooperative created to grow the cooperative model across the United States. Cooperative development centers work to revitalize communities through effective cooperative enterprise development. The centers provide a broad spectrum of expertise and technical assistance, including feasibility studies, market analysis, business plan development, governance training, and educational programs. NCBA CLUSA works closely with both CooperationWorks! and the centers to provide support and resources to aid in their very critical work. NCBA CLUSA understands that it is imperative to grow and sustain financial support so that CooperationWorks! and the centers may foster cooperative economic development. To that end, NCBA CLUSA is co-hosting with CooperationWorks! a summit to engage the cooperative development centers on a national level that will bring forth strategies that will diversify and grow funding. PARTNERSHIP WITH FREELANCERS UNION NCBA CLUSA first began working Freelancers Union in 2010 while assisting organizations across the United States that were applying for funding to develop the new national health care CO-OPs. NCBA CLUSA first provided expertise to Freelancers Union regarding board governance and board development for the application and later played a role in board training for Freelancers Union. Since that time, a close and productive relationship has grown between the two organizations. Sara Horowitz, Found and Executive Director of Freelancers Union, recently wrote; “Cooperatives are deeply knit in the American fabric. In 1752, founding father (and volunteer firefighter) Ben Franklin started the nation's first mutual fire insurance company, Philadelphia Contributionship, which still operates today. In his book For All The People, historian and woodworker John Curl highlights the amazing diversity of cooperative businesses that popped up in the 1800s -- mining coops, shoemaking coops, knitting coops. Basically anything workers could unite to own, they did. We are beginning to see the rise of that mutualistic ethos once again. Many of these efforts directly mirror the late 1800s mutual support model -- but this time with the internet helping bring what had once been local models to national scale.” Freelancers Union has a mission of promoting the interests of independent workers through advocacy, education, and services. NCBA CLUSA is working with the Freelancers Union to provide certain training, education and support services to assist the Freelancers Union in fulfilling their research of cooperatives, member educational programming, project management, board education, business model transition, and public relations objectives, and services for which cooperation may be mutually beneficial. REGIONAL FARMERS MARKET/USDA RCDG GRANT NCBA CLUSA’s 2012 USDA Rural Cooperative Development Grant is dedicated to supporting the establishment of a Regional Farmer’s Market located in the Mississippi Delta, in partnership and through the leadership of Shreveport Federal Credit Union and the Federation of Southern Cooperatives. The establishment of food hubs that address food deserts is a particular area of expertise for NCBA CLUSA through our international work, and we are applying that expertise to our rural cooperative development partnerships. The work is also supported by previous project work related to wealth creation and development of value chains, especially as relate to cross-sector cooperative business opportunities. The initial work around the establishment of a regional farmers’ market located in Marks, Mississippi has been led by the Shreveport Federal Credit Union, which located a branch in Marks in 2006. Joining with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, the primary cooperative development expert in the rural south, Shreveport FCU has worked with local community leaders to further explore opportunities for community engagement and is currently building out the concept for the market, setting in motion plans to launch the market by the end of 2013. The idea for the Delta Regional Market (a name under consideration) came about through multiple meetings with community members, mayors of several towns, and farmers in which they addressed the challenges which have caused this region to be so economically deprived. The Market will be a food hub for the entire community providing reasonably priced, fresh, locally-grown foods; creating jobs for some and for others an entertainment and a gathering place that is planned to be a major draw for customers within a 50-mile radius.  On-street parking provides plenty of space for customers, and the building is located near local businesses to encourage foot traffic to nearby merchants. The Market will also be a showcase for the community’s cultural roots. In addition to being a Food Hub with sales of fresh farm products, the Market will also house a small Museum called “The Muletrain Museum and Gift Store”, a Kidz Zone, and a small Food Court. “Sunday Go to Meeting at the Market” will highlight the deep spiritual roots of the people of the Delta, and provide the opportunity for area churches from diverse communities to bring their choirs and congregations to the market to sing in the food court area on Sunday afternoons as an additional way to attract consumers to the Market. Another central feature of the Market will be the participation of the North Delta Produce Growers Association, which will use part of the Market’s building to expand their commercial enterprise which currently sells purple hull peas to Walmart. Expansion of their operations will increase the distribution opportunities for their participating farmers, and open the door for other farmer cooperatives to join. Leadership and partnership must go hand in hand for the success of this project. Shreveport Federal Credit Union is stepping up with some of the financing for the building; the Federation of Southern Cooperatives is providing the hands-on expertise in agricultural as well as small cooperative business development. Thanks to funding from the USDA Rural Cooperative Development Grant, NCBA CLUSA is providing expertise in business planning, project design and financing to support the launch and sustainability of the project. We believe the Delta Regional Market can become an important pilot for other communities to follow, and we will work with our partners to document and evaluate every step of this important project. Links to partners: Shreveport Federal Credit Union Federation of Southern Cooperatives North Delta Produce Growers Association USDA

Association Services


Succession Planning for Co-op Members Join us for a Webinar on June 26 Space is limited. Reserve your Webinar seat now at: What will happen to your business when its leadership is ready to retire? During NCBA CLUSA’s June 26 webinar, presenter Gary Pittsford, CFP, president and CEO of Castle Wealth Advisors, will discuss key factors you need to consider in planning for the future of your coop, including: • Issues affecting family members • Transition options • Retirement income security • Tax impacts and options • Business and estate plans Get the answers to your burning questions about the succession planning process and begin to assemble an advisory team who can help you make smart decisions for your organization.   Title: Succession Planning for Co-op Members Date: Thursday, June 26, 2014 Time: 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM EDT   After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.   System Requirements PC-based attendees Required: Windows® 8, 7, Vista, XP or 2003 Server Mac®-based attendees Required: Mac OS® X 10.6 or newer Mobile attendees Required: iPhone®, iPad®, Android™ phone or Android tablet       Future NCBA CLUSA Webinar Topics Promoting Cooperation with Financial Cooperatives Learn how financial cooperatives are engaging in cross-sector collaboration by doing business with other cooperative sectors. Cooperative education in colleges and universitiesWhile the cooperative business model is distinct from other business models, our current options for pursuing relevant cooperative management education is limited. Join this webinar to learn about the existing programs, along with work being done to improve management education for the cooperative sector. Cooperative GovernanceWebinar will explore key issues in cooperative governance, and how cooperative governance is different than governance of other organizational models.   NCBA CLUSA’s webinars continue to be a popular source of information on issues impacting the cooperative community. Whether it is marketing and branding your co-op, understanding the legal and governmental framework of cooperatives or learning how co-ops are using technology to be innovative, NCBA CLUSA’s webinars provide useful and timely information to leverage opportunities for growing and improving your cooperative. Webinar Archive Miss a webinar? Visit NCBA CLUSA's archive to view presentations on-demand We'd Love Your Input! Do you have an idea for a webinar topic? Please send your suggestions to:info@ncba.coop



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Reaching thousands of like-minded cooperators has never been easier! NCBA CLUSA’s jobs posting service targets your job listing to those in the cooperative community looking to get involved in cooperative work!



NCBA CLUSA is the nation’s oldest and largest national membership association representing cooperatives of all types and in all industries. We are democratically organized and operate according to internationally recognized cooperative principles. NCBA CLUSA’s mission is to develop, advance and protect cooperative businesses and to demonstrate the power of the cooperative business model to achieve economic and social impacts. As the apex organization representing the interests of the US cooperative community, NCBA CLUSA provides a strong, unified voice on Capitol Hill. The Association’s portfolio includes programs and services that meet the shared advocacy, education and communications needs of a cross-sector, US cooperative community. In addition to its work domestically, NCBA CLUSA’s international program has been engaged in cooperative and sustainable business development in over 100 countries for close to 60 years.


NCBA CLUSA is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer with a commitment to diversity.  All individuals, regardless of personal characteristics, are encouraged to apply; all qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, political affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, disability, protected veteran status, genetic information, age, and legally protected characteristics for non-merit factors. NCBA CLUSA is committed to providing reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities in all facets of employment, including the employment application and selection process. If you have a disability that affects your ability to use our online system to apply for a position at NCBA CLUSA, please send an email to Misti French or call 202-383-5465.



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The Team

Meet Our Senior Leadership Team

Judy Ziewacz

Judy Ziewacz

President and CEO
Amy Coughenour Betancourt

Amy Coughenour Betancourt

Chief Operating Officer, CLUSA International
Valeria Roach

Valeria Roach

Chief Financial Officer
Lisa Bowman

Lisa Bowman

Chief Administrative Officer, NCBA CLUSA
Larry Thomas

Larry Thomas

Chief Human Resources Officer, NCBA CLUSA

The National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International (NCBA CLUSA) is the oldest and largest national cross sector association for cooperatives, professionals servicing co-ops, and supporters.