NCBA CLUSA submitted a written question to lawmakers ahead of the confirmation hearing for U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Nominee Sonny Perdue, seeking clarity around his familiarity with the economic impact of cooperatives. Perdue is scheduled to testify during his confirmation hearing on Thursday. Despite his experience in the agriculture industry—Perdue spent most of his career in the agriculture business and once ran a fertilizer company before being elected governor of Georgia—NCBA CLUSA is looking for assurance that, as Ag Secretary, Perdue will contribute to a enabling environment for co-op development—specifically, whether he will maintain and prioritize the work of USDA’s Interagency Working Group on Cooperative Development.
Earlier today, the Office of Management and Budget released a Budget Blueprint outlining the Trump Administration’s FY2018 Budget. The Blueprint proposes to reduce or eliminate several programs important to developing and supporting the work of cooperatives, both domestically and abroad. Examples include the elimination of discretionary programs at USDA, such as the Rural Cooperative Development Grant (RCDG), as well as deep reductions in international development funding and the elimination of tailored U.S. development agencies.
Congressional Cooperative Business Caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) welcomed incoming freshmen to the 115th Congress and invited them to join the recently reestablished caucus.
In her introduction of the co-chairs, NCBA CLUSA president and CEO Judy Ziewacz noted that while co-ops inject $3 trillion into the U.S. economy each year, their unique value is offering members a piece of their success. “This caucus shines a light on all the good that co-ops do building wealth in local communities,” she said.
Rep. Royce, a leading Congressional advocate for credit unions, mutual insurers and rural electric co-ops, thanked the cooperative community for supporting passage of the Electrify Africa Act, adding that the cooperative business model works particularly well as a development tool.
“Stop and think for a minute what it means for 50 million human beings, by 2020, to have access to electricity that they would not have otherwise had. Think what it means to those sons and daughters that were burning kerosene lamps or studying by candlelight, when that problem is solved. That is something you did,” Royce told an audience of NCBA CLUSA Board members, co-op sector executives and Congressional staffers.
“I thank you, and I look forward to many additional victories. Let’s look for every opportunity to get the cooperative narrative into every bill we can!” he added.
Caucus co-chair Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) joined Royce at the reception, pointing out that co-ops are integral to the U.S. economy because they create jobs that pay fair wages and offer member-owners a chance to directly shape business decisions. He also pledged the caucus’ continued advocacy on issues affecting cooperatives.
“Our job is to keep the cooperative business model at the forefront, regardless of what may happen. Whether changes in tax policy or anything else, we’ve got to make sure that this cooperative caucus is able to rally its membership and be ready to act,” Pocan said.
Two new representatives have already joined the caucus: Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), serving Wisconsin’s 8th District and Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH), representing New Hampshire’s 1st District. Gallagher is an incoming freshman; Shea-Porter is serving her fourth term in Congress.
“It’s going to be extremely important to recruit more caucus members, given the current political landscape, so we’re going to be counting on the caucus throughout the coming months to get as many members of Congress as we can engaged to support our work,” Ziewacz said.
The State Cooperative Statute Library team has released two new additions to its growing database of co-op law: research on New York’s Cooperative Corporations Law and Wisconsin’s General Cooperative Statutes. Other statutes with complete or near-complete research include the Georgia Agricultural Statue, the Wisconsin Incorporated and Unincorporated Association statutes, the West Virginia Statute, and the Illinois, Iowa, South Dakota and Virginia General and Agricultural statutes, bringing the state total to 18.
Congressional Cooperative Business Caucus—co-chaired by Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI)—for the 115th Congress.
“We are thrilled that this historic caucus dedicated to advancing the role of cooperatives in the nation’s economy has been continued in the new Congress,” NCBA CLUSA president and CEO Judy Ziewacz said. “We encourage lawmakers to recognize the critical role co-ops play in their districts by joining this bipartisan caucus.”
First established in 2016, NCBA CLUSA helped establish the caucus that has served as an outlet for raising awareness of and advancing the cooperative business model before Congress and the Administration.
In May, the caucus—seeking to end a decades-long absence of federally reported data on co-ops in the U.S.—asked the U.S. Department of Commerce to reinstate a question recognizing cooperative businesses on the 2017 Economic Census. Since then, the question has undergone feasibility and field testing and is poised for approval by the Office of Business and Management.
Rep. Royce—who, along with Rep. Pocan, has helped spur movement on this issue and others—said he looks forward to using his role as caucus co-chair to continue highlighting the benefits of cooperatives. “Cooperative businesses provide valuable goods and services, build wealth in local communities and offer their members a piece of their success,” he said in a January 30 press release.
Royce is a longtime advocate of cooperative businesses—from California’s credit unions and mutual insurers to Africa’s rural electric co-ops. Wisconsin’s Dane Country, which Pocan represents, is home to 80 cooperatives—the highest number of co-ops per capita of any county in the nation.
“I’m proud that my district is home to thriving cooperatives, from Willy Street Food Co-op to UW Credit Union,” Pocan said in the release. “I look forward to continue working with Rep. Royce to promote greater awareness of the cooperative business model and to advocate on federal policy issues unique to the co-op community.
On Wednesday, February 1, Royce and Pocan are expected to speak at a reception hosted by NCBA CLUSA to welcome freshmen members of the 115th Congress and invite them to join the Congressional Cooperative Business Caucus.
The January 31 issue of Co-op Weekly incorrectly identified Rep. Ed Royce as a Democrat. Rep. Royce is a Republican representing California's 39th District. NCBA CLUSA regrets the error.
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