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At NCBA CLUSA-hosted event, USDA Deputy Under Secretary O’Brien calls co-ops “bright spot” in rural America

mike-PressClub 9939fCo-ops are a “bright spot” for job creation in rural America, and with “wise, strategic” investment in cooperative business, the public and private sectors can help provide the influx of capital Middle America needs to match the rate of post-recession economic recovery enjoyed by metropolitan centers along the East and West Coasts.

That was the message from Doug O’Brien, Deputy Under Secretary for USDA Rural Development, at last week’s Co-op Month Forum and Panel Discussion hosted by NCBA CLUSA at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

The event highlighted the role of co-ops in growing the U.S. economy and creating sustainable jobs, and featured development experts from the USDA, U.S. Small Business Administration and the private sector.

Co-ops currently provide 185,000 jobs in rural America and deliver services to more than 130 million member-owners and customers. Last year, the nation’s farmer co-ops alone charted record sales of more than $246 billion.

Ripe with what O’Brien called “historic opportunities and potential” in the areas of infrastructure and workforce development, rural America is poised for significant growth and holds unexpected benefits for investors, he said.

According to the study, “Promoting Growth for All Regions,” released in 2012 by the Organization for Economic and Cooperative Development, the rural regions of some 30 industrialized countries worldwide—among them the U.S.—are growing faster than urban regions in the same countries, O’Brien said. The study also shows that investment in rural areas tends to yield greater returns on public and private dollars than comparable investment in urban areas.

“It’s time for policymakers to look to rural places when they’re thinking about investments,” he said. “And it’s time for those who already work in rural America to think about what they’re doing and consider whether they can do it better.”

O’Brien’s call for more strategic development in rural America was echoed by the five panelists who participated in the October 22 discussion.

Public investments in rural America administered by the USDA are prioritizing local food production in high-poverty areas, said Lillian Salerno, administrator of the USDA’s Rural Business-Cooperative Service. One in four children in rural America lives in poverty, and one in eight children struggles with “deep” poverty. These households exist well below the poverty line, or on about $11,500 per year for a family of four.

In the Southern U.S., Salerno added, poverty is exacerbated by food deserts—communities with little or no access to fresh, affordable fruits and vegetables. In such food deserts, the USDA’s Rural Business-Cooperative Service has already funded hundreds of farmers markets and other rural food hubs—many of them “co-ops or potential co-ops,” she said.

Largely driven by consumers—especially young people—who expect to know whether their food is sustainably and ethically produced, the “food hub” movement is gaining momentum across the country, said Deb Trocha, executive director of the Indiana Cooperative Development Center and NCBA CLUSA Board member. Farmers markets, once a “hobby,” she said, are now operated as profitable businesses. Co-ops, too, are taking the cue and increasingly prioritizing strategic planning and capitalization, she said.

Young people are also behind the new “shared economy,” said Ann Marie Mehlum, associate administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration, referring to the ridesharing service Uber and Airbnb, a community marketplace for accommodations worldwide.
There’s “energy” around sharing resources, and co-ops should tap into that “natural overlap,” Mehlum said, emphasizing characteristics such as democratic member control, ethical behavior and concern for community.

Leta Mach, who teaches what it means to be a member of a co-op to parents and young children through her work at Parent Cooperative Preschoolers International, said education early on is critical to raising a generation of young people who understand the value of co-ops. At the Greenbelt Cooperative Alliance, where Mach is a member, children are learning entrepreneurship by selling bicycle-blended smoothies at local farmers markets, she said.

Many organizations are advocating for the inclusion of co-op education in curricula nationwide, especially at the MBA level, said Michael Beall, president and CEO of NCBA CLUSA and moderator of the discussion.

A “groundswell” of support from students and parents is needed to change curricula, Trocha said. Co-op leaders could volunteer as guest speakers at schools and show up at career fairs to help spur awareness, she said.

“We’re swinging below our weight,” said Chuck Snyder, president and CEO of the National Cooperative Bank. “We really could be more influential than we are.”

But does the cooperative movement have room for a new crop of young leaders? Georgetown University, Beall said, boasts its own $20 million-strong student-run credit union, but the vast majority of those students go on to Wall Street, not careers in co-op leadership and development.

“This is the brain drain we’re talking about,” Beall said. “We don’t find space for all of these talented young folks.”

When a board of directors recently asked Beall how co-ops could attract young people, he said a “tough answer” immediately came to mind: “Step aside. Somebody has to create a space. If board makeup doesn’t involve folks who are 35, I think co-ops are missing an opportunity to inject a totally different mindset into their operations.”

As the cooperative community advocates for change—whether in curriculum, leadership or federal policy—Beall left audience members with a threefold challenge to “live Co-op Month” now:

• Institutional—self identify as a co-op

• Professional—collaborate across sectors

• Personal—make a co-op part of your everyday routine

“All of us have habits. Choose in some way in your life to bring a co-op in. That could be opening an account at a credit union, buying Organic Valley, or telling your realtor that you want to live in a housing co-op,” Beall said.

That level of professional and personal ownership will help demonstrate that cooperatives are “not a sideline of the U.S. economy for the millions of people who rely on them every day,” he said.


For Linda Phillips, NCBA CLUSA's upcoming Co-op Professionals Conference will provide unparalleled collaborative opportunities

linda-phillips-web 2b8fcLinda D. Phillips, Esq., an attorney at Denver, Colorado-based Phillips Law Offices LLC, provides counsel for the cooperative community related to their business enterprises. She advises clients on types of business entities and tax issues involved in starting a company. She also assists companies transferring ownership to their employees. Phillips is part of a team of distinguished legal experts working with NCBA CLUSA to organize a brand-new platform for professional collaboration within the cooperative movement—the inaugural Cooperative Professionals Conference.

The November 6 to 8 conference in Denver, Colorado, will offer networking and continuing education opportunities for attorneys, accountants, CPAs, financial and investment advisors, insurance advisors and legislative staff who work within the cooperative sphere or are interested in expanding services to include co-ops.

A member of the Rocky Mountain Employee Ownership Center Board of Directors, Phillips has helped the organization grow and focus its efforts on employee ownership as a viable alternative to today's corporate culture. She has written extensively on cooperative law and co-wrote with Jason Wiener, Esq. a chapter on Colorado cooperative law for the legal website co-oplaw.org

Ahead of the Co-op Professionals Conference, we spoke to Phillips about the challenges and opportunities cooperative law presents, where the new conference is headed, and the value of linking often-isolated professionals who serve co-ops.

NCBA CLUSA: What factors led to the formation of the Cooperative Professionals Conference?

Phillips: Tom Beckett [attorney, Mountain South Business Law] and I met several years ago at an NCBA CLUSA meeting in Seattle and were pleasantly surprised to find each other. We talked about other attorneys across America who were working with non-traditional co-ops, some with little or no assistance from their peers. Then we determined that there are also CPAs who work with co-ops but who may or may not know each other. So we thought it would be great if we could bring folks together who shared a passion for cooperatives and for the cooperative business model.

NCBA CLUSA: Why is this professional network needed in the cooperative sphere?

Phillips: There are legal and accounting issues that are specific to cooperatives, especially non-traditional cooperatives, such as worker co-ops. Being a business lawyer or a CPA who works with LLCs or S-corporations is not sufficient when working with cooperatives. Having a network of colleagues available to ask and answer questions or talk about ideas would be invaluable.

NCBA CLUSA: What shape do you hope the conference takes going forward?

Phillips: We are hoping to attract attorneys and CPAs who may not have worked much with cooperatives but who are interested in learning more about businesses that are formed as cooperatives. In addition, we would like to include law students and CPA students who want to pursue alternative business models. All of these people will have chance to network and learn from professionals currently working with co-ops.

NCBA CLUSA: What specific opportunities and challenges does cooperative law present, and how will this conference address them?

Phillips: Cooperative law and accounting are distinct from general business law and there are statutes, federal regulations and specific provisions of the Internal Revenue Code that will be discussed throughout the conference. We are hoping to facilitate in-depth discussions between professionals with experience in these areas of law and accounting. For example, reading and understanding Subchapter T of the Internal Revenue Code is required for both attorneys and CPAs who work with cooperatives.

NCBA CLUSA: What drew you to cooperative law?

Phillips: I first learned about cooperatives in 1991 while working as a paralegal for the preeminent cooperative attorney James B. Dean. I learned about co-ops as a business model from Jim who later became my business partner when I finished law school. I have been lucky to receive the opportunity through my practice to form and work with several different types of non-traditional cooperatives, and I am passionate about the flexibility of the cooperative business model for many forms of business.

NCBA CLUSA: What would you say to encourage legal and accounting professionals to register for the Cooperative Professionals Conference?

Phillips: This conference is an opportunity to share your experiences about cooperatives with other professionals and an opportunity to start a new network and association of professionals that can improve your expertise through collegiality, instruction and perhaps in the future, even a form bank for members to use when drafting cooperative documents. We are hoping it’s the start of a new professional association that will provide an education and networking forum for all persons interested in forming and counseling cooperatives.

Click here to register for the Co-op Professionals Conference, November 6 – 8, at The Curtis Hotel in Denver, Colorado. 

USDA Webinar: The role of cooperatives in local food systems development

ag-farm-500 934f2In celebration of Co-op Month, NCBA CLUSA is pleased to invite its members to join the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), national cooperative leaders and development specialists for an engaging webinar on how cooperatives have benefited food supply chains and played a critical role in developing local and regional food systems.


Andrew Jermolowicz, Associate Deputy Administrator of Co-op Programs at USDA Rural Development, will moderate the discussion, scheduled for October 30, 2014, at 1 p.m. ET. 

Webinar presenters will include Elanor Starmer, National Coordinator, USDA “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” Initiative; Jim Barham, Agricultural Economist, Coop Programs, USDA Rural Development
; Margaret Bau, Cooperative Development Specialist, USDA Rural Development
; Robin Seydel, Membership and Community Development Coordinator, La Montanita Co-op
; Jan Tusick, Center Director, Mission Mountain Food Enterprise Center
; and Karl Sutton, Farmer and Co-op Member, Western Montana Growers Cooperative
.

This webinar is free to the public and does not require registration. Click here on October 30 at 1 p.m. ET to log in to the webinar. Alternately, you can call toll-free (800) 738-1032 to listen to the webinar audio on your phone. 


Agriculture Secretary Vilsack announces funding to strengthen rural businesses and cooperatives

USDA-rural-development-web22 8c4adAn October 24 announcement by the USDA reflects the advocacy efforts of NCBA CLUSA and its partners to preserve funding for the Rural Cooperative Development Grant (RCDG) program, which boosts economic development in rural communities nationwide:  

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the selection of 43 organizations in 27 states for grants and loans to help create jobs and boost economic development activity in rural areas. The announcement culminates a week in which the department has been highlighting products that are Made In Rural America.

"Many rural businesses and organizations are succeeding but with access to additional resources can create more jobs, promote growth and create an environment where more products can be made in rural America," Vilsack said. "The awards we are announcing today will not only provide funding, but they also will provide the critical training and technical assistance rural cooperatives and non-profit groups need to enhance the work they are doing to strengthen America's Main Street businesses."

The funding is being provided through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Cooperative Development Grant (RCDG) program and the Intermediary Relending Program. Vilsack announced $5.8 million in RCDG awards to 32 recipients, and just over $7 million in loans to 11 recipients under USDA's Intermediary Relending Program. Funding is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan or grant agreement.

Rural Cooperative Development Grants are being awarded to non-profit groups and higher education institutions. The recipients will use the funds to operate centers to develop or expand rural businesses, especially cooperatives and mutually-owned businesses. The funding can be used to conduct feasibility studies, create and implement business plans, offer technical assistance, establish low-interest loans, and help rural businesses develop new markets for their products and services.

Today's announcement of RCDG recipients includes several who are developing new opportunities for rural farmers and ranchers by capitalizing on the fast-growing market for locally produced food.

For example, the Virginia Foundation for Agriculture, Innovation and Rural Sustainability will receive a $200,000 technical assistance grant to help meat processing cooperatives link producers with local and regional consumers. Funding will also be used to provide education and training. The Cooperative Network in Wisconsin is receiving a $200,000 grant to help establish cooperatives focusing on health care, local foods and senior housing. Funds will also be used to help Native American tribal members form a cooperative.

In North Carolina, the Rural Advancement Foundation International–USA will receive a $200,000 grant to launch a program on agricultural cooperatives. Funding will be used to provide technical assistance to groups in rural North Carolina, South Carolina, northern Florida, and eastern Kentucky. Since fiscal year 2009, USDA has awarded 200 RCDG grants for approximately $38.4 million that have helped more than 2,500 businesses.

USDA's Intermediary Relending Program helps capitalize loan funds to alleviate poverty and increase economic activity and create jobs in rural communities. Loans are provided to local organizations that establish revolving loan funds.

For example, the Vermont Community Loan Fund, in Montpelier, will receive a $1 million loan to help 90 organizations and businesses create and retain nearly 900 jobs. The Nebraska Enterprise Fund will receive a $175,558 loan to help businesses and non-profit organizations in Adams, Buffalo, Custer, Dawson, Hall, Hamilton, Kearney, Keith, Lincoln, Merrick, Phelps, Sherman, Valley and York counties in the south central region of the state. In South Dakota, the West River Foundation will use a $750,000 loan to provide low-interest financing to public and non-profit organizations. This is expected to create or save approximately 100 jobs.

Since fiscal year 2009, USDA has awarded 281 IRP loans for approximately $140 million. These loans have helped more than 4,700 businesses.

President Obama's historic investments in rural America have made our rural communities stronger. Under his leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America's economy, small towns and rural communities.


Tackling economic inequality in the U.S. through worker co-ops

worker-coop-500 af335In June, the New York City Council voted to approve a historic $1.2 million initiative to fund the development of worker co-ops as a way for low-income and minority New Yorkers to become business owners. Co-operative News reporter Anca Voinea explores the impact of worker co-ops in economic inequality in this story:  

While there are many forms of inequality, gender inequality remains a concerning issue in modern society. In the U.S., female workers are still paid only 77 cents for every dollar their male colleagues make. For immigrant workers, finding decent employment is even a greater challenge.

In January 2014 the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA) published the report, “Worker Cooperatives for New York City: A Vision for Addressing Income Inequality,” in which it highlighted the important role played by cooperative enterprises in empowering women. FPWA urged city officials to provide customized support services for worker cooperatives and to make worker cooperatives a preferred contractor for city agencies.

The report described worker cooperatives as a tool that can assist marginalized populations, such as women and immigrants, in not only gaining employment, but also securing decent wages.

Co-ops can promote gender equality within enterprise and also within the wider society. Moreover, by providing quality jobs for women, worker cooperatives are also contributing to the local economy.

According to the report by FPWA, the pay ratio within worker co-ops between the highest and the lowest paid employee is generally 3:1 to 5:1 before taxes, and the minimum pay is generally higher than the local equivalent for similar work. In the U.S., the average chief executive to lowest-paid worker wage difference is 600:1.27.

“The development of worker co-operatives in New York City should be included as part of a long-term strategy to address income inequality,” reads the report.

Chris Michael of the New York City Network of Worker Cooperatives thinks worker co-ops are a natural enemy to economic inequality. “Before we even talk about real world examples, all worker co-ops address inequality," Michael said. "You can almost say that all worker co-op by their very nature tackle inequality." 

Michael explained how New York City currently has 40 worker co-operatives, including the nation’s largest worker co-operative, Cooperative Home Care Associates (CHCA).

Created in 1985, CHCA is a worker-owned cooperative based in South Bronx. It currently employs more than 2,000 staff, nearly all Latina and African-American women, a large share of whom previously received public assistance.

At CHCA, 82 percent of every dollar received as revenue goes back to its home health aids, as wages or benefits, as opposed to 60 percent in the case of other home care agencies. Moreover, 95- to 97 percent of worker-members are employed full time, have 401(k) retirement plans and access to affordable health insurance.

Wages for CHCA’s health care workers stand at USD $16 an hour including benefits, twice the market’s rate. They work around 36 hours per week, as opposed to 25-30 hours in the rest of the industry.

Recognizing the important contribution of co-ops to job creation, the New York City Council allocated $1.2 million to an initiative designed to fund the development of worker co-operatives.

“This budget invests in our city’s future and begins to address inequality, all while strengthening our long-term fiscal health,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio following the announcement of the budget.

Administered by FPWA, the $1.2 million will go to 10 organizations, including Green Worker Cooperatives and the Center for Family Life. These non-profits must create 234 jobs in worker cooperative businesses and reach 920 cooperative entrepreneurs. They will help support 28 new worker cooperatives and assist another 20 existing cooperatives.

The Center for Family Life, a neighbourhood-based family and social services organization, helps vulnerable New Yorkers build a better future for themselves and their families by setting up worker cooperatives.

One of these co-operatives is called Si Se Puede ("We Can Do It"), a women-owned and run business designed to create living wage jobs and educational opportunities for its members.

Employers of domestic workers are excluded from the Fair Labor Standards Act, which means that they are not required to pay a minimum wage or overtime. In September 2013, the Department of Labor announced the FLSA would finally extend minimum wage and overtime protections to domestic workers, but the changes will not take effect until January 2015.

Si Se Puede was set up in 2006 by 19 worker-owners, but it now has 51 members, all women immigrants. Four years later its worker owners had tripled their wages to as much as $25 per hour. 

“Setting up co-ops and working together is more accessible than starting their very own business because they are able to pull resources and skills,” said Katie Harrison, cooperative developer at the Center for Family Life.

Building on the success of Si Se Puede, the Center for Family Life helped another 16 immigrant women to launch Beyond Care Childcare Cooperative, an enterprise designed to provide excellent childcare services.

They chose a cooperative because they believed that when workers receive 100 percent of the fee charged they would give 110 percent of themselves to the job at hand. Members are driven not only by their love of children and need to earn a living, but also by a commitment to fairness in wages and treatment.

The women not only earn more, but they are also able to set their own schedule, which enables them to spend more time with their own families.

Since its creation in 2008, the co-op has attracted more members and now includes 30 women ages 25 to 50, all mothers themselves. In addition to raising their own children, most have worked as babysitters, after-school program employees or nannies.

Those who were not English-proficient were enrolled in ESL classes. Beyond Care members have completed training courses.

Being part of a cooperative empowers women, who are more informed about their rights, more motivated and are also able to assert themselves, Harrison said.

Another example is the Arizmendi Bakery on 9th Ave. in San Francisco, where Sue Lopez works as a baker. Set up in 2000 as a worker cooperative, the enterprise now employs 21 bakers—13 women and eight men—all earning the same amount.

“All workers are required to learn all shifts, then they eventually settle into the shifts that work for them, considering other jobs, school, children, etc. Most of the 9th Avenue workers work approximately 25-35 hours a week, very few fulltime. It’s hard work, but the bakery is doing well and we are also well compensated and get full benefits (for our children, too) and up to six weeks vacation annually (though not all paid)," Lopez said. This is just one of the Arizmendi bakeries in the area. Employees contribute some of their profits to a common pot to help get the next business started. 

“This unique business model has so impressed me from day one. I never thought I’d still be here, but I’m feeling like a lifer now," Lopez said.


Subcategories

  • US Development PR

    NCBA CLUSA is dedicated to the continued growth and strengthening of cooperative businesses across the United States. Cooperatives at all levels provide a much needed and sought after alternative to other business models. Throughout the United States, NCBA CLUSA is working with local cooperatives to embed them as permanent fixtures in their local economy. Through the implementation of cooperative development grants, NCBA CLUSA is providing support and training to coops across all cooperative sectors, through case studies and economic impact research. Using that research and the power of the collective cooperative voice, NCBA CLUSA advocates on Capitol Hill on behalf of coops, fighting to maintain or increase government funding for cooperative programs and securing access to legislature that protects the cooperative business model.

    Our domestic development 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, and as well as their efforts to establish new cooperatives. In particular 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.

    PARTNERSHIP WITH FREELANCERS UNION
    COOPERATIVE BUSINESS ASSOCIATIONS (CBA'S)
    OUR PARTNERSHIP WITH CooperationWorks AND THE COOPERATIVE DEVELOPMENT CENTERS
    LINKS TO OTHER COOPERATIVE ORGANIZATIONS
    REGIONAL FARMERS MARKET/USDA RCDG GRANT
  • Advocacy PR
  • International Development PR
  • CBJ - PR

Services

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.

Webinars

window.location.href = "https://www.ncba.coop/current-events" 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

Webinars

NCBA CLUSA Takes Food for Progress Success Story to Capitol Hill and USDA

(WASHINGTON, DC)—This week, NCBA CLUSA’s Chief of Party for Uganda, Gretchen Villegas, met with key leadership on Capitol Hill to share the success of the Uganda Conservation Farming Initiative funded by United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food for Progress program currently being implemented by NCBA CLUSA in Northern Uganda. Ms. Villegas was accompanied by NCBA CLUSA leadership; President and CEO Mike Beall, CLUSA International Chief Operating Officer Amy Coughenour Betancourt, and vice president of Advocacy R.L. Condra.    “This program is vitally important to farmers in Uganda,” said Villegas. “Providing local Ugandan farmers access to this training in conservation agriculture has benefitted more than just the farmers and their households, it benefits the community as a whole and provides a measure of food security and stability in the region.”   Through this program, NCBA CLUSA is training 60,000 farmers on the proper implementation of conservation farming techniques. Within three years, following proper implementation, Ugandan farmers can increase their crop yields by over 100 percent and are now able to support their families. The delegation met with key Congressional players that oversee International development programs funded by government agencies including USDA. They shared the successful outcomes of the project and requested continued support for the program.    The visit included conversations with T.A. Hawks, Staff Director and Taylor Nicholas, both senior staff serving on the Senate Agriculture Committee, which oversees and authorizes the USDA Food for Progress program. Both Hawks and Nicholas work for Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) who is Ranking Member on the Committee. Additionally, they met with Ned Michalek, Chief of Staff to Congressman Eliot Engel who is Ranking Member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.   An overview of the project and its progress was presented at USDA to Food for Development Branch Chief Nicola Sakhleh and his staff from partner and funding agency, the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service.    The National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International (NCBA CLUSA) is the apex association for cooperative businesses in the United States and an international development organization. NCBA CLUSA provides cross-sector education, support, and advocacy that helps co-ops thrive. For nearly 100 years NCBA CLUSA has sought to advance and protect cooperative enterprises, highlighting the impact that cooperatives in bettering the lives of individuals and families. In the last 60 years, NCBA CLUSA has grown its international development portfolio to over $34 million of active programs in 15 countries.   ###

NCBA CLUSA Takes Food for Progress Success Story to Capitol Hill and USDA

Association Services

  Pat Brownell Sterner, Chief Operating Officer Click Here To Email Pat 202-638-6222   Bryan Munson,  Director, Membership Click Here To Email Bryan 202.442.2318   Tom Decker, Director, Cooperative Development Click Here To Email Tom 202.442.2318                   The National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA (NCBA CLUSA) represents a cross-sector co-op community of 29,000 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. CO-OP TALKS Another significant focus for NCBA CLUSA is boosting our presence with members through a series of Co-op Talks.  These meetings will be excellent opportunities for us to listen to our members, recruit new members, and learn more about what cooperatives need in communities across America.  Current list of venues include: Denver, Colorado Madison, Wisconsin   CONFERENCES NCBA CLUSA hosts and/or supports several conferences throughout the year: Consumer Cooperative Management Association (CCMA):  June 12-14 in Madison, Wisconsin Co-op Week (in partnership with the National Cooperative Bank and the Cooperative Development Foundation):  May 5-9 in Washington, D.C. Purchasing Cooperative Conference and the NCBA CLUSA Annual Meeting:  September 8 – 11 in St. Paul, Minnesota   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

SENATOR BEGICH SUPPORTS CREDIT UNION TAX EXEMPTION

  Thursday, 01 August 2013 10:38 In a July letter to the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) stated he supports credit unions and their tax exemption status. Outside of the Washington beltway, regular folks may not be aware that Congress is working to overhaul the existing tax structure. For the last few years, Congressional tax committees have been considering comprehensive tax reform, and they now plan to draft and pass a bill later in the year. The current process in the Senate is called the “blank slate” approach. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) have asked senators to submit letters advising the committee which tax exemptions they support that should be included in the committee’s approach to comprehensive tax reform. Along with his requests to keep housing and energy tax provisions, Senator Begich also included the credit union tax exemption in his July 26 letter to the Senate Finance Committee. In his letter, Senator Begich stated, “Alaska is far removed from traditional financial centers and that credit unions play an outsized role in the state’s economy. That is why Section 501(c)(14), which grants tax exempt status to credit unions, should be retained in any tax reform effort, to ensure continued access to affordable credit for consumers, homebuyers and small businesses alike, all of which contribute substantially to economic growth.” At the Finance Committee’s request, the letter writing exercise has been kept confidential, but Senator Begich, along with a few other senators have made their requests public. It is not clear how senators are participating in the “blank slate” process, or how the House of Representatives will proceed with their tax reform approach. NCBA CLUSA has coordinated its efforts with the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and the National Association of Federal Credit Unions (NAFCU) to support the credit union tax exemption and will continue to work with its association partners as the tax reform process moves ahead in Congress.  

SENATOR BEGICH SUPPORTS CREDIT UNION TAX EXEMPTION

Call to Action: Tell Your Members of Congress to Support Cooperative Development Funding!

Cooperative Development Centers Need Your Support! During the Congressional appropriations process, vital funding for the USDA Rural Cooperative Development Grant (RCDG) program was impacted dramatically, and the cooperative community needs to do everything we can NOW to restore it to sufficient levels. The House of Representatives Agriculture Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2014 eliminates RCDG funding that is critical to the development of cooperatives in rural America. The Senate provides $8.8 million in their funding bill for the program. Without sufficient funding for the RCDG program, cooperative development centers providing hands-on assistance will be unable to operate, and the only existing program in the federal government dedicated to cooperative development would be hindered significantly or possibly eliminated. As an NCBA CLUSA member and supporter, you have an opportunity to help! Attached are two letters, one specifically drafted for the House of Representatives and the other for the Senate. Please send the appropriate letter of support to your Representative or Senators and let them know this vital program needs to be saved. If you would like to share the success of your advocacy efforts on this issue or have any questions, please contact NCBA CLUSA’s Vice President of Advocacy, R.L. Condra at 202.383.5480 or rcondra@ncba.coop. Sincerely, Michael Beall President and Chief Executive Officer   Download House of Representatives Letter » Find Your Representative Download Senate Letter » Find Your Senator

Call to Action: Tell Your Members of Congress to Support Cooperative Development Funding!

Legislative Update: Cooperative Development Bill Introduced in the House of Representatives

  Legislative Update Cooperative Development Bill Introduced in the House of RepresentativesLegislation Focuses on Job Creation by Promoting Cooperative Development  (WASHINGTON, DC) – The National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA CLUSA) is excited to announce the introduction of legislation that will spur job creation and development of cooperatives. The legislation H.R. 2437 titled, “Creating Jobs Through Cooperatives Act of 2013” was introduced by Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA) on June 20 in the House of Representatives. “Co-ops bring communities tighter by encouraging residents to pool their skills and resources,” said Fattah. “They empower people to make decisions that will create opportunities that grow their communities and provide an added sense of belonging. This legislation brings federal resources and a policy priority to that effort.” The legislation would create a national program within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide capital, training and other resources to foster member owned businesses. The bill introduced will strengthen communities, promote self-help, and generate jobs by awarding grants to nonprofit organizations, colleges and universities that help grow or create cooperatives. Also, when establishing cooperatives, communities will be provided with guidance, best practices, and technical assistance. Furthermore, the legislation will create a revolving loan fund, providing seed capital to groups forming cooperatives and funding to train providers in technical issues, supporting existing professional development for organizations engaged in cooperative development. “On behalf of the 29,000 cooperatives throughout the country, we thank Congressman Fattah for his support and leadership,” said Michael Beall, president of NCBA CLUSA. “This legislation is a giant step in providing more communities around the country with the financial backing to grow businesses that share their same values.” Cooperatives already play a significant role in the U.S. economy operating in all 50 states and across all sectors. They are owned and operated by the people who utilize the goods or services provided by the co-op and they operate for the benefit of its members. Cooperatives are a part of many industries including energy, telecommunications, food distribution, insurance, credit unions, agriculture, health, housing, and wholesale and retail purchasing and distribution. There are 29,000 U.S. cooperatives that account for more than $3 trillion in assets, totalling over $500 billion in revenue, $25 billion in wages and benefits, and providing nearly two million jobs. If you would like to receive the text of the bill, or would like to learn how you could have your Member of Congress support the legislation, please contact R.L. Condra, NCBA CLUSA Vice President of Advocacy, at  or 202.383.5480. The National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International (NCBA CLUSA) is the apex association for cooperative businesses in the United States and an international development organization. NCBA CLUSA provides cross-sector education, support, and advocacy that helps co-ops thrive. For nearly 100 years NCBA CLUSA has sought to advance and protect cooperative enterprises, highlighting the impact that cooperatives in bettering the lives of individuals and families. In the last 60 years, NCBA CLUSA has grown its international development portfolio to over $34 million of active programs in 14 countries.

Legislative Update: Cooperative Development Bill Introduced in the House of Representatives

Co-op Jobs

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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 employment opportunity employer. It is the intent and policy of NCBA CLUSA to bar discrimination in the recruitment, selection, employment, assignment, payment, training, development, promotion, discipline, and termination of its employees. It is also the intent of NCBA CLUSA to treat all applicants for employment and all employees on the basis of job-related qualifications, and not based on race, religion, color, sex, national origin, age, disability, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, pregnancy, family responsibilities, matriculation, political affiliation, genetic information, or any other classification proscribed under local, state, or federal law.

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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.



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