Members of Congressional Cooperative Business Caucus, other legislators, urge U.S. Census Bureau to include co-ops in 2017 Economic Census

coops US map 500 8114bcoops US map 500 8114bIn a May 17 letter, U.S. Representatives Ed Royce (R-CA) and Mark Pocan (D-WI), co-chairs of the Congressional Cooperative Business Caucus, urged U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker to consider including cooperative businesses in the 2017 Economic Census—a move that would end a decades-long absence of federally-reported data on co-ops in the U.S.

The letter, signed by seven other members of the U.S. House of Representatives—among them three members of the caucus: Ron Kind (D-WI), Reid Ribble (R-WI) and Barbara Lee (D-CA)—points out that since 1997, the Economic Census survey forms stopped providing a checkbox for “cooperative” in its Legal Form of Organization question.

NCBA CLUSA’s Advocacy team is pleased that the request is bipartisan, including five Republicans and four Democrats. The signatories also represent a wide spectrum of Americans, hailing from California, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Ohio, Arkansas and Pennsylvania.

The census letter was part of an advocacy toolkit distributed by NCBA CLUSA members to 27 Congressional offices during the fly-in portion of the organization’s 2016 Annual Cooperatives Conference earlier this month. Alan Knapp, Vice President of Advocacy for NCBA CLUSA, said movement on the letter is a testament to the leadership of the Congressional Cooperative Business Caucus and the efforts of fly-in participants. It also illustrates the “great potential” that coordination between the caucus and the USDA Interagency Working Group on Cooperative Development has to raise the profile of co-ops in the U.S., he said.

“The USDA has been working with their counterparts at the U.S. Census Bureau to ensure that stakeholders who want cooperatives measured in the next census are heard. This letter helps reinforce and support that work,” Knapp said.

In a joint press release from his office yesterday, Rep. Royce said cooperatives nationwide “deliver critical goods and services” while “allowing their members to share in their success. As a longtime advocate of credit unions, mutual insurers and rural electric co-ops,” he added, “I believe policymakers should have a better handle on how these organizations are building a stronger economy.”

Rep. Pocan contributed to the joint release, pointing out that cooperatives are present in “virtually every sector of the U.S. economy” where they “create good-paying jobs and offer employees a chance to be directly involved in business decisions.”
Rep. Pocan added that in his district alone—Wisconsin’s Dane County—there are 80 cooperative businesses, making it the highest per capita of co-ops of any county in the country.

“But despite their prevalence in the economy and positive consumer attitudes, there is relatively little data available on co-ops. To better advocate on federal policy issues unique to the cooperative community, it is vital we have ample data on this vibrant sector of our economy,” Rep. Pocan said.

The full letter, available here, indicates that since the U.S. Census Bureau stopped identifying the cooperative business sector in any of its census or business reporting surveys, the only available data on co-ops came from federally-supported research by the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives in 2007.

That study found that there were 29,000 cooperatives in the U.S. that account for more than $3 trillion in assets, more than $500 billion in revenue, $25 billion in revenue and sustain nearly two million jobs. NCBA CLUSA now estimates that there are closer to 40,000 cooperative businesses in the U.S., but census data is needed to confirm that number.

“The next Economic Census in 2017 provides the perfect opportunity to measure their [cooperatives’] impact nationwide,” the letter reads. “We support this work and ask that the Census Bureau coordinate with all stakeholders on this issue and work together with them on how to best ensure more data-driven information is readily available on cooperatives.”


Make a commitment now or reaffirm your pledge to advance the cooperative movement

pledge 500 275capledge 500 275caMorgan Crawford, Director of Education for the North American Students of Cooperation (NASCO), signs NCBA CLUSA’s advocacy pledge at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. last week. Thank you for taking NCBA CLUSA's Impact 2016 Advocacy Pledge! Here are a list of resources to help you complete your pledge:   

• Meet with or write your member of Congress and urge them to join the bipartisan Congressional Cooperative Business Caucus and/or educate them about the cooperative business model as a viable market solution and policy option. Click here to download a sample letter. Find your Senator here and your Representative here.

• Customize and sign an op-ed or letter-to-the-editor in your local newspaper to drive awareness about the cooperative business model by highlighting the positive impact made by local co-ops. Click here to download a template op-ed. Please note that highlighted areas should be customized. If you would like help placing the op-ed in your local paper, send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with the subject line Place My Op-Ed.

• Invite your member of Congress or candidate for office to tour your co-op and connect with its member-owners. Find your Senator here and your Representative here.

• Support NCBA CLUSA’s 100th Anniversary Campaign by providing information for a profile, sharing campaign messaging and materials through social media or promoting the efforts on your website. Click here to download our social media toolkit. If you would like us to profile your co-op, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and request a co-op profile questionnaire. 

2016 is shaping up to be a pivotal year for NCBA CLUSA's advocacy efforts, positioning the organization to better defend and advance the cooperative movement. But NCBA CLUSA's voice is only as big as its members. The more engaged our members are, the more impact we can have in conversations with our elected officials. Thank you for your direct involvement as we continue to support co-ops that build a better world! 


NCBA CLUSA supports expanding American trade and travel to Cuba with U.S.-Cuba Cooperative Working Group

As U.S. President Barack Obama visits Cuba for the first time this month, the departments of Treasury and Commerce announced amendments that will significantly expand American access to the island via educational travel and more secure commercial and private-sector trade policies. The trip comes just a few months before NCBA CLUSA leads the first-ever U.S. – Cuba Cooperative Forum in Havana, expected to further strengthen both countries' cooperative economies.

Obama is the first U.S. president in almost 90 years to visit the island, a signal that relations continue to improve. The U.S. embassy in Cuba reopened in August during a ceremony attended by Secretary of State John Kerry. “This is what historic change looks like,” said James Williams, president of Engage Cuba. NCBA CLUSA and Engage Cuba work together to support ending the trade and travel bans between the U.S. and Cuba.

Scheduling exchange visits, the NCBA CLUSA-led U.S. – Cuba Cooperative Working Group originally visited the island with leaders from the U.S cooperative community in 2014, publishing a report on the emerging Cuban cooperative sector.

Cooperatives are central to Cuba’s changing economic landscape. The handover of state-run businesses to cooperative ownership could result in 20 to 30 percent of Cuba’s workers being actively involved in cooperatives, including more than 8,000 restaurants that could transition to worker-owned cooperatives. By 2017, the Cuban government expects there to be approximately 10,000 cooperatives in the country.

“As the voice of the cooperative community in the U.S, NCBA CLUSA is uniquely positioned to engage cooperative leaders in Cuba as the movement develops and grows,” said Amy Coughenour Betancourt, COO of International Programs for NCBA CLUSA. “Cooperative businesses are a critical part of a strategy to open up private sector opportunities in Cuba.”

NCBA CLUSA is currently planning the first U.S. – Cuba Cooperative Forum to be hosted in Havana in June 2016, engaging the U.S. cooperative community in mutually beneficial commercial and technical exchanges that will strengthen the cooperative movements in both countries.


America's electric co-ops welcome House passage of FEMA Disaster Assistance Reform Act

In 2013, NCBA CLUSA successfully advocated for legislation that allowed housing cooperatives to receive critical FEMA disaster assistance in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Now, NCBA CLUSA member the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) is welcoming a similar expansion of FEMA assistance, this time benefiting electric co-ops nationwide. Click through to read the press release from NRECA.

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) today expressed strong appreciation for House passage of the FEMA Disaster Assistance Reform Act of 2015 (H.R. 1471). In addition to reauthorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the bill would expedite the process for electric co-ops and other applicants of obtaining reimbursement for disaster relief efforts by raising the Public Assistance small projects threshold from $35,000 to $1 million.

“Electric co-ops rely on reimbursements by FEMA’s Public Assistance Program for funds to restore electric power after severe disasters, such as floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and ice storms,” said NRECA Interim CEO Jeffrey Connor. “Without FEMA reimbursement assistance, many electric cooperative consumers living in disaster-stricken areas could face higher electricity rates and struggle with recovery, causing a slower return to pre-disaster conditions.”

NRECA strongly supports a provision in the bill that would create a three-year limit for FEMA to reclaim funds, a process known as “deobligation.” FEMA has been able to demand return of previously granted funds due to additional internal review of the original funding decision. In many cases, there is no transparency into these decisions. For electric co-ops—as not-for-profits without reserve funds—this can cause serious hardship with little to no recourse.

NRECA urges swift consideration of the bill by the Senate.

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association is the national service organization that represents the nation’s more than 900 private, not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives, which provide service to 42 million people in 47 states.


Interagency Working Group on Cooperative Development

interagency grp whitehouse 500 47f61interagency grp whitehouse 500 47f61The White House hosts the third meeting of the Interagency Working Group on Cooperative Development on May 5, 2016. The Interagency Working Group on Cooperative Development (IWGCD) was established to foster cooperative development and ensure coordination with Federal agencies and national and local cooperative organizations that have cooperative programs and interests. In recognition of the role the cooperative business model plays throughout the U.S. economy, Congress, through the Agricultural Act of 2014, Section 7 USC 1932(e)(12), has directed the U.S. Department of Agriculture to take the lead in starting an Interagency Working Group on Cooperative Development. This section of the Act authorizes 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.”

With the expansion of cooperatives in healthcare, local food distribution, manufactured housing, as well as community economic development in starting and preserving businesses, interagency sharing of information within the Federal Government will expand and improve cooperative development. The cooperative community is interested in sharing knowledge and working with government agencies at local, state and federal levels.

Co-ops have been USDA’s partners in delivering programs to farmers and rural residence at lower costs while expanding access to opportune programs to underserved communities. The IWGCD will become a centralized source of expert knowledge and resources for helping cooperatives and government agencies achieve their shared goals. Our cooperative partners and participating agencies are listed on the resources tab via the following link.

For more information on the Interagency Working Group on Cooperative Development, visit the USDA Rural Development website.

Click on the icon below to download a pdf information sheet on the Interagency Working Group on Cooperative Development.

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