‘Let’s get the co-op narrative in as many bills as we can,’ Rep. Royce says at reception welcoming 115th Congress

At a reception on Capitol Hill last week, Reps. Ed Royce, left, and Mark Pocan pledged the Congressional Cooperative Business Caucus' continued advocacy on issues affecting co-ops, from potential tax reform to international development.

At a reception on Capitol Hill last week, Reps. Ed Royce, left, and Mark Pocan pledged the Congressional Cooperative Business Caucus' continued advocacy on issues affecting co-ops, from potential tax reform to international development.At a reception on Capitol Hill last week, Reps. Ed Royce, left, and Mark Pocan pledged the Congressional Cooperative Business Caucus' continued advocacy on issues affecting co-ops, from potential tax reform to international development.At a reception on Capitol Hill last week, Reps. Ed Royce, left, and Mark Pocan pledged the Congressional Cooperative Business Caucus' continued advocacy on issues affecting co-ops, from potential tax reform to international development.At a reception on Capitol Hill last week, NCBA CLUSA and 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.


New statutes added to co-op law library; full launch coming soon

A comprehensive, state-by-state review of co-op law will address the challenge of inconsistent legislative framework for cooperative development in the U.S.

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.

Bipartisan Congressional Cooperative Business Caucus relaunches in 115th Congress

First established in 2016, the caucus provides greater visibility, education and awareness of the cooperative business model's economic impact nationwide.

First established in 2016, the caucus provides greater visibility, education and awareness of the cooperative business model's economic impact nationwide.First established in 2016, the caucus provides greater visibility, education and awareness of the cooperative business model's economic impact nationwide.First established in 2016, the caucus provides greater visibility, education and awareness of the cooperative business model's economic impact nationwide.The National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International is pleased to announce that the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on House Administration on Friday formally recognized the bipartisan 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.



Government Accountability Office report recommends continued analysis on Cuba

Camila Piñero, Center for Studies on the Cuban Economy, speaks with U.S. Co-op delegates during the 2016 Cooperative Forum in Cuba.

Camila Piñero, Center for Studies on the Cuban Economy, speaks with U.S. Co-op delegates during the 2016 Cooperative Forum in Cuba.Camila Piñero, Center for Studies on the Cuban Economy, speaks with U.S. Co-op delegates during the 2016 Cooperative Forum in Cuba.Camila Piñero, Center for Studies on the Cuban Economy, speaks with U.S. Co-op delegates during the 2016 Cooperative Forum in Cuba. Analyzing the impact of increased engagement between the U.S. and Cuba, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report last week confirming that increased engagement did in fact have an impact in Cuba, but more data is needed.

The GAO consulted with NCBA CLUSA for its expertise on the cooperative sector in Cuba during the writing of the report, including questions on the role of the U.S. – Cuba Cooperative Working Group.

The recommendations from the GAO report echo a memo released by NCBA CLUSA and the Cuba Study Group last week, urging continued analysis and reporting on Cuba before making any decisions about disengagement.

The GAO report examines what is known about the size and scope of the Cuban private sector, the effect of changes to U.S. legal and regulatory restrictions on the Cuban private sector and U.S. businesses, and the extent to which the U.S. government planned and implemented activities to increase U.S. engagement with the Cuban private sector and expand U.S. economic opportunities in Cuba.

Activities like the U.S. Cooperative leaders' delegation to Cuba in July 2016 encouraging private sector links and connections between the two countries contributed to increased engagement. The delegation visited as part of the work of the U.S. - Cuba Cooperative Working Group, lead by NCBA CLUSA.

Although the regulatory changes have created some new opportunities for U.S. businesses and the Cuban private sector, embargo restrictions and Cuban government barriers continue to limit U.S. – Cuba economic engagement, according the GAO report.

The GAO recommendation “that all relevant U.S. agencies have information on the effect of changes in U.S. policy related to Cuba, and should take steps to identify and begin to collect the information that would allow them to monitor changes in economic engagement, including with the Cuban private sector,” supports the recommendation NCBA CLUSA and the Cuba Study Group, along with 16 other organizations, made last week to the Trump Administration.

Read more about NCBA CLUSA and Cuba Study Group’s memo to the Trump Administration on Cuba.

Read the GAO Report: U.S. Policy Changes Increased Engagement with Private Sector, but Agency Information Collection Is Limited.


NCBA CLUSA joins Cuba Study Group urging President-elect Trump to continue engaging Cuba

Leaders of the co-op sector in the U.S. visit Cuba in July 2016 as part of the U.S. – Cuba Cooperative Working Group.

Leaders of the co-op sector in the U.S. visit Cuba in July 2016 as part of the U.S. – Cuba Cooperative Working Group.Leaders of the co-op sector in the U.S. visit Cuba in July 2016 as part of the U.S. – Cuba Cooperative Working Group.Leaders of the co-op sector in the U.S. visit Cuba in July 2016 as part of the U.S. – Cuba Cooperative Working Group.NCBA CLUSA joined the Cuba Study Group and 16 other organizations today, co-signing a letter addressed to the incoming Trump administration on Cuba. Titled U.S. Policy Towards Cuba: The Case for Engagement, the memo urges the president-elect to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of progress made in U.S. – Cuba relations.

The memo outlines the positive gains from U.S – Cuba engagement, including potential U.S. job creation and notes that the risks of disengagement could affect national security and human rights.

One gain is the growth of the Cuban private sector, which now accounts for 30 percent of the country’s workforce. The preferred business model in the Cuban private sector is cooperative businesses, which continue to need support and training. The first export to the U.S. from Cuba in over 50 years, arriving this week, will be from a cooperative charcoal business.

“Cooperative businesses and the private sector in Cuba will continue to grow through engagement between the U.S and Cuba. There is a rich history of the U.S. cooperative sector supporting cooperative business around the world and Cuba is no exception,” said Amy Coughenour Betancourt, head of NCBA CLUSA’s U.S. – Cuba Cooperative Working Group and COO for International Development. “With collaboration through groups like the U.S. – Cuba Cooperative Working Group, cooperative sectors from both countries can only advance.”

NCBA CLUSA’s U.S. – Cuba Cooperative Working Group continues to foster cross-national cooperative business collaboration. Next month, NCBA CLUSA member Organic Valley will host Cuban co-op farmers during their MOSES Organic Farming training conference, a partnership that was formed out of the recent U.S. Co-op Delegation to Cuba last July.

Outlining these and other gains, this week's memo is part of an effort to demonstrate that constructive engagement is the best strategy for supporting the Cuban people while also boosting U.S. jobs and exports.

Read the full memo here.


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