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Cuba Cooperative Working Group researches co-op movement in country

cuba-coop2-web 391f8Members of a worker co-op at an auto repair shop in Cuba. NCBA CLUSA led a research and education trip to Cuba last week to gain a clearer picture of the cooperative movement there, which observers say is playing an increasingly significant role in the country’s push for economic reform.

The Cuba Cooperative Working Group, comprised of more than a dozen representatives from the agriculture, finance, housing, energy, worker and purchasing sectors, conducted site visits, met with local partners and performed an initial needs assessment.

The educational research trip was approved by the U.S. State Department.

“Over the last several years, the Cuban government has been evolving state-owned farms and business enterprises into cooperatives,” said Mike Beall, president and CEO of NCBA CLUSA. “This evolution is the subject of our research,” he added.

The trip comes as Cuba pursues reforms in an effort to strengthen its economy, which include bolstering the role of cooperatives and allowing space for the formation of new cooperatives. Meanwhile, U.S. policies toward Cuba have softened in recent years. While the two countries do not share formal diplomatic relations, the U.S. has worked to lift some restrictions on family travel and money transfers to Cuba.

“These developments provide an opportunity for NCBA CLUSA to leverage its 60 years of experience and that of its cooperative members and partners in creating and strengthening cooperative business in Cuba,” said Amy Coughenour, NCBA CLUSA COO for International Development.

cuba-coop-web f32a6Beall and Coughenour represented NCBA CLUSA on the trip, along with Stanley Kuehn, NCBA CLUSA regional director for Latin America.

NCBA CLUSA was joined by Equal Exchange, Cooperative Coffee, Union Cab Cooperative, National Cooperative Bank, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Arrizmendi Association of Cooperatives, Pachamama Coffee, SOL2ECONOMICS, Cooperative Development Services, Democracy Collaborative and Food Co-op Initiative.

The trip took place within the framework of the U.S. Government’s people-to-people program, an authorized category of travel to Cuba that covers short-term educational and cultural exchange trips to the island.

The Cuba Cooperative Working Group was accompanied by a Cuba Education Travel representative and a bilingual Cuban guide throughout the trip.

A written report of findings and recommendations for future action is expected to follow the visit. Trip findings will also be presented during a panel at the 2014 Annual Cooperatives Conference

Meet the Candidates Running for Election to the 2014 NCBA CLUSA Board of Directors

NCBA CLUSA LogoOnline elections for the 2014 NCBA CLUSA Board of Directors will open August 4 and run through August 29. All NCBA CLUSA members in good standing are invited to cast their votes.  Please email Director of Member Relations This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to receive VoteNet login credentials. 

Elections Open August 4, 2014

The NCBA CLUSA Board brings consistent focus to the organization's long-term impact, results, purpose, and future opportunities to serve the needs of members. Board members exercise proactive leadership in policy development, collective decision-making after encouraging a diversity of viewpoints, and adhere to the highest standard of ethical conduct in all aspects of governance and leadership of NCBA CLUSA.

Candidates include: Joseph G. Bergeron, Cornelius Blanding, Linda Brockway, Carla Decker, Charles Forman, Esteban Kelly, Maria Miller, Dave Swanson, Ed Yaker and Karen Zimbelman. 

Board election results are announced at NCBA CLUSA's Annual Business Meeting, held this year at the Annual Cooperatives Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota in September. 

The NCBA CLUSA Board of Directors election is handled online through VoteNet, which offers a secure and cost effective platform for election services. The online voting platform also reflects our deep commitment to social and environmental responsibility—VoteNet offers a greener and more efficient alternative to traditional paper-based balloting systems.

Meet the Candidates

Joseph G. Bergeron

Bergeron ec3bfJoe has spent the past 36 years serving Vermont credit unions, largely in the role of president. During this time, he has been actively involved in connecting credit unions and other cooperative sectors.

Joe was a founding board member of the Northeast Cooperative Development Institute, as well as the Energy Cooperative of Vermont, a local energy service provider.

While chairing the Credit Union National Association’s Cooperative Alliances Committee, he worked with numerous other sector representatives to explore opportunities of mutual interest.

Joe has served on the board of directors of the Credit Union National Association, representing the nation’s credit unions. He is currently a member of the board of directors of the National Cooperative Business Association, building varied cooperative organizations domestically and internationally.

 Candidate Statement 87a8f


Cornelius Blanding

Cornelius Blanding photo 4c133Cornelius Blanding began his career in development work as an economic development intern for the City of Miami Beach. Since then, he has gained a broad experience base encompassing rural, international and cooperative economic development.  

His experiences include business development, management and marketing. He has worked as a small-business development and management consultant, manager of a $3 million revolving loan fund, domestic and international project director, director of field operations and is currently serving as the deputy executive director for the Federation of Southern Cooperatives.

Cornelius has also served and continues to serve on various boards and committees, including the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA CLUSA), Agricultural Safety & Health Council of America (ASHCA), Southeast Climate Consortium (SECC) and the Presbyterian Committee on the Self Development of People (SDOP).

 Candidate Statement 87a8f


Linda Brockway

Linda 7afb5Linda Brockway is the President of Economic Consultants for Housing Opportunities (ECHO), Inc., a full-service homeownership and economic development consulting firm that works with residents, housing authorities, cooperatives, city governments, county governments, non-profit organizations, financial institutions, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and other organizations to develop strategic plans, self-sufficiency programs, welfare reform programs, economic development, homeownership programs and other self-sustaining programs for low-income families to support the development of affordable housing, including the development of housing cooperatives.

ECHO, Inc. has written and received more than 90 grants totaling over $7 million from grant funds. ECHO, Inc. assists non-profit organizations, cooperatives, public housing authorities and local units of government in writing grants to assist local residents.

Linda works directly as a national speaker for the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development to train and work with the agencies to provide the successful development of Section 32, successful monitoring of Section 3 and successful monitoring of Section 42.

 Candidate Statement 87a8f


Carla Decker

Carla Decker photo 6f65aCarla Decker joined DC Federal Credit Union (d/b/a DGEFCU) as president and CEO in 2001. Traditionally an employer-based credit union, DGEFCU acquired a community charter meant to serve the Latino population in Washington, D.C.

Carla advanced DGEFCU’s community charter through ACCESO, an innovative collaborative that links multiple credit unions to address the financial needs of the local immigrant and under-served community. Under her leadership, DGEFCU attained the designations of Low Income Credit Union and Community Development Financial Institution.

Prior to joining DGEFCU, Carla held various financial management and operational posts in tenures with PAHO/WHO Federal Credit Union and Transportation Federal Credit Union.

She has volunteered her leadership and skills to various committees of the MDDCCUA, the Credit Union Foundation of Maryland & D.C., the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions, and the Institute for Social & Economic Development. Carla was a charter member of the National Credit Union Foundation’s Development Education (DE) Advisory Council. She has mentored and facilitated DE leadership programs in the United States and the Caribbean.

 Candidate Statement 87a8f


Charles Forman

Charles Forman photo 65e66Charles Forman, executive vice president of Independent Stationers Inc., leads the office products dealer group’s sales, marketing, and business development efforts through a myriad of innovative company programs and initiatives.

He is responsible for Independent Stationers’ member recruiting, member relations and marketing efforts, as well as managing the organization’s federal sales and office furniture programs. Charles has worked in the office products and office furniture industries for 25 years and owned an independent office products dealership.

As a current member of the Board of Directors for the National Office Products Alliance (NOPA), Charles has served on their legislative committee for 10 years and has lobbied the U.S. Congress on the benefits of supporting small business as it pertains to federal procurement and other topics of benefit to small business.

In June 2012, Charles testified before a U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Small Business, where he urged the Federal Government to look more to the cooperative business model to achieve its procurement goals, reduce administrative burden and support small business.

 Candidate Statement 87a8f


Esteban Kelly

EstebanK-Headshot eb32cEsteban Kelly is a co-founder and Steering Committee member of the Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance (PACA). He works for the New Economy Coalition and is also a founder and worker-owner of AORTA, a worker co-op of educators whose facilitation and consulting strengthens cooperatives and social justice groups.

Esteban was recently appointed to the Philadelphia Mayor’s Food Policy Advisory Council. He also serves as an advisor to many national and community-based organizations committed to food justice and community economic development.

Formally introduced to cooperatives through his experience in student co-op housing, Esteban has served on many cooperative boards, including NASCO, the Democracy at Work Institute, the U.S. Solidarity Economy Network, the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives, Mariposa Food Co-op, CDF and NCBA CLUSA.

In 2005, he was a youth delegate at the ICA meeting in Cartagena, Columbia, and in 2011 he was inducted into the NASCO Cooperative Hall of Fame.

 Candidate Statement 87a8f


Maria Miller

Maria Miller 8c1a8Maria Miller serves as executive director of the National Farmers Union Foundation (NFUF). In this capacity, she oversees day-to-day operations and is responsible for the foundation's achievement of its mission and financial objectives.

Maria manages the development and implementation of educational outreach programs for farmers and ranchers of all ages, and for rural residents, consumers and other audiences who share a vested interest in agriculture and cooperatives.

She serves on the National Farm to School advisory board and its executive and governance committees. She is also on the advisory panel for the Farmer Veteran Coalition. Maria was recently appointed to the USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Advisory Committee.

Maria built a beginning farmer program to enhance the organization’s adult education program. Additionally, she designed a national women’s conference to teach risk management skills and encourage women to pursue leadership roles on boards such as those for farm organizations and cooperatives. She also oversees a national cooperative education conference for college students.

 Candidate Statement 87a8f


Dave Swanson

Swanson photo 7ead2Dave Swanson is a partner in Dorsey & Whitney LLP’s Corporate practice group; chair of the Agribusiness, Cooperatives and Electric Associations practice group; and co-chair of the Project Development and Finance practice group.

For 25 years, he has focused on organizational issues, financing and transactions for energy project participants, agricultural and rural electric cooperatives, as well as cooperative financial institutions.





 Candidate Statement 87a8f


Ed Yaker

Ed Yaker photo 2d27dEd was born, raised, and has lived at Amalgamated Houses, the nation’s oldest limited equity housing cooperative, for all but a few years.

First elected in 1977, he is in his 34th year on the Amalgamated Houses Board, 25 of which he spent as president. Ed is currently board treasurer.

He also serves as co-chair of the Coordinating Council of Cooperatives (CCC), comprised of leaders of housing co-ops associated with the United Housing Foundation. CCC meets monthly, except during summer, to share information and solve problems shared by housing co-ops.

Ed participated in the first year of NCBA CLUSA’s “Future Co-op Leaders” program. He received NCBA CLUSA’s “Honored Cooperator” Award in 1994, bestowed by the Amalgamated Housing Board and CCC. Ed served on NCBA CLUSA’s Board of Directors from 2005 to 2008.

He also served on the boards of the National Association of Housing Cooperatives and the United Housing Foundation. He was a member of the advisory committee of the CDF Co-op Innovation Fund. In May, Ed was honored by NCB with the “Spirit of Cooperation” Award.

Ed is a retired New York City math teacher.

Candidate Statement 87a8f


Karen Zimbelman

KZ staff pic 0d6bcKaren Zimbelman is National Cooperative Grocers Association’s Director of Development Services.  She has worked with co-ops at the local, regional, and national level since 1980.  

Karen was founding executive director of Cooperative Grocers’ Information Network and two regional associations, establishing supply agreements, promotions, trainings, audits, etc.  She was editor of Association of Cooperative Educators' newsletter, wrote How to Start a Food Co-op, The Ownership Toolbox, and numerous articles and books for co-ops and credit unions.  She provided training to co-op boards for 20 years.  In 1994, she was presented the Cooperative Service award and in 1999 was recognized for contribution to co-op education.  

Karen has a Master's degree from University of Michigan; her thesis won the Glenn Anderson award for consumer co-op research.  She has extensive co-op and credit union board and committee experience.  She lives in Eureka, California with her husband, Chris Copple, retired manager of a worker co-op. 


Candidate Statement 87a8f

How a fishermen’s co-op lives the 7 Cooperative Principles

SPC-web 511a5[photo: Dan Lamont/Tatoosh Media, courtesy Seafood Producers Cooperative]NCBA CLUSA member Seafood Producers Cooperative (SPC) is the oldest fishermen's cooperative in North America. Their fishermen are dedicated to sustainably harvested seafood, and donate their time to ocean cleanup efforts with the Marine Conservation Alliance Foundation's Marine Debris Cleanup project. SPC Premium Seafood Brands wrote this thought leadership article on how their co-op lives the 7 Cooperative Principles: 

When you buy from a fishermen’s cooperative, you buy your fish from a fisherman. Your fish goes from the ocean to your plate in the most direct path possible. We, the fishermen, are the owners of the cooperative and take great pride in getting the best quality fish to our customers.

The fisherman’s life is notoriously a difficult one. Being at the mercy of the elements makes working together crucial. So we’ve banded together to make it easier. And that’s why we’re part of a cooperative, which just happens to be the oldest fishermen’s cooperative in North America.

Working together in a co-op means that there is a better chance for us to achieve sustainable harvests and livelihoods. Sustainability for us means ensuring there are enough fish to feed and support our work for generations to come.

When a fisherman tries to sell fish on his own, he faces three problems:

• Who does he get to process and package his fish?

• How does he get enough volume to scale so that his potential customers can rely on him always having enough to sell?

• How can he get enough money to solve the first two problems? 

This is where a fishermen’s co-op comes in. A co-op allows a fisherman to do what he does best—catch fish. A co-op can invest in processing and packaging facilities. A co-op can achieve enough scale so that customers don’t run dry. A co-op provides a safety net by allowing members to pool together and get things like vessel insurance or savings on gear purchases.

Co-ops have a unique way of doing business that offer fishermen the best of both worlds, giving us the opportunity to work independently, the way we fishermen work best, but while also providing a space for us to pull our resources together to achieve a bigger goal.

Here are the 7 Cooperative Principles used by co-ops around the world and how they apply to a fishermen’s cooperative like Seafood Producers Cooperative (SPC).

1. Voluntary and Open Membership 
Our fishermen’s co-op is open to fishermen who accept the responsibilities of membership and therefore share our values and follow our adherence to quality.

2. Democratic Member Control
 Our Fishermen’s Cooperative is managed by our members. We the fishermen are the owners and the members who vote to make important decisions about how to pursue our future.

KingPortions1 59aedKing Salmon from Seafood Producers Cooperative are caught sustainably on hook and line from the ice cold, pristine waters of Southeast Alaska. [photo: Diane Padys, courtesy Seafood Producers Cooperative] 3. Members’ Economic Participation
 Members contribute equally to, and democratically control, the capital of the cooperative. We fishermen decide how to invest capital. For example, pulling our capital together helps us get the most state-of-the-art cooling technologies and the best processing equipment available.

Since 1944, all investments—whether small or large, short- or long-term—have been made with one purpose, and that purpose is to better serve the needs of the cooperative’s members…the fishermen.

Being part of a cooperative helps members save as much as possible on gear purchases, vessel costs and insurance. As a cooperative, the whole is better than the sum of the parts.

Generations of SPC fishermen have benefited from the stability that the cooperative offers us. We fishermen are living a unique way of life—a rugged, independent life. Co-ops have a unique way of business that offers us the best of both worlds, giving us the opportunity to work independently, the way we fishermen work best, but also allowing us to band together to get the latest equipment to help us produce the best fish possible. Being part of a co-op makes our dreams possible.

4. Autonomy and Independence
 Cooperatives give us fishermen the autonomy and independence we enjoy out on the seas. We are the captains of our destiny and we make decisions to support each other. As a co-op of hook-and-line fishermen, we work on a smaller scale and have a deeper connection with the ocean than larger corporations that use mass extraction methods. We revere traditional approaches to fishing that don’t do long-term damage to fisheries and the ocean. Working on a smaller scale means that we can be more transparent. We can look customers in the eye and tell them where we fished and how we fished.

5. Education, Training and Information
 Our fishermen’s cooperative provides education and training to our members on how to process fish with the strictest adherence to quality standards. Our Frozen-At-Sea (FAS) educational program gives our members key insights into how to produce the highest quality fish. SPC holds the highest standards of its members and makes it possible for all members to share techniques so that together we can achieve the highest standards of quality.

6. Cooperation among Cooperatives
 As a fishermen’s cooperative, it’s important for us to work with other co-ops. We believe it’s important to bring our high quality fish to food co-ops and we will work with other co-ops to help us all achieve bigger goals.

7. Concern for Community
 We have and will generously offer fish and/or time to causes in the communities within which we work that align with our values. Such causes include work with the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association, the Sitka Seafood Festival, and the Southeast Alaska State Fair.

Our concern for community extends to how we fish. As a cooperative of hook-and-line fishermen, we use a method that is more sustainable than the mass extraction methods used by many other companies.

In addition to our sustainable methods of fishing, we are also the "eyes of the ocean." SPC members like Dick Curran use their vessels to clean up the ocean in a further effort to be good stewards of the resource that provides for their livelihood. Dick and his family—partner Tory and her two daughters—use their F/V Cherokee to participate in the Marine Conservation Alliance Foundation Marine Debris Cleanup project with the support of SPC. During the break between fishing the Gulf of Alaska and before outfitting for the Chatham black cod fishery, Dick and his family have removed nearly 30,000 pounds of plastics and marine debris from remote coastal beaches that would have been harmful to local wildlife.

This sort of concern for community is what cooperatives are all about. SPC’s dedication to cooperating with causes that matter, the communities within which we work and with other like-minded organizations embodies the spirit of cooperatives.

—Look for fresh, frozen and canned SPC fish at your local food co-op or order it online at www.alaskagoldbrand.com

Webinar: How to prepare for a worry-free audit, by Wegner CPAs

wegner-CPAs 2c152Wegner CPAs Partner Pete Oettinger, CPA remembers the moment that turned a spotlight on the need for dedicated financial services for cooperatives.

His accounting firm had acquired a new co-op client just in time to prep them for an IRS audit. Oettinger and his colleagues discovered that a prior accountant didn’t know how to classify a co-op and had bungled the return, filling out a form designated for a church and classifying a multi-million-dollar parsonage payout as a “parsonage allowance ” instead of a patronage deduction.

You can guess the rest of the story—the unwitting co-op got a visit from a posse of IRS agents brandishing guns and demanding to see the so-called church and “the priest who was getting $30 million tax free!”

“For us, it just reinforced the fact that co-ops need to work with folks who understand them, bottom-line,” Oettinger says.

With more than 65 years of combined knowledge and experience working in the cooperative sector, Wegner CPAs fits the bill. The accounting firm currently serves more than 100 cooperatives across the country, along with traditional businesses, non-profits and individuals.

During an August 20 webinar co-hosted by NCBA CLUSA and Wegner, Oettinger will demystify the process of preparing for a worry-free audit. Called, “Oh No! Our Organization has been Chosen for an Audit—Now What?” the webinar will equip participants with a checklist of the documents they need, vendors they should contact and areas they must address to ensure a smooth audit process.

A full-service accounting firm, Wegner offers audits, reviews and temporary CFO and controller services. The firm also handles fraud investigations, tax return compliance, consulting, payroll processing, valuations, litigation support and other services businesses need to achieve financial security in a changing economic landscape.

Wegner CPAs is based in Madison, Wisconsin—a “hotbed of co-op activity,” Oettinger says. “We got into this sector because it matched our business DNA. Co-ops are uniquely structured to offer a lot of products that other businesses can’t, and that keeps things interesting for us,” he says.

One major benefit is the multiemployer pension plan, which allows co-ops to pool their risk and resources, better ensuring pension security for workers. Co-ops also tend to get better deals for their members with vendors, especially those that carefully monitor compliance.

The co-ops that insist on “strict compliance” get “off-the-chart better deals” compared to others, Oettinger says.
Wegner CPAs is also aligned with the philosophy that drives cooperatives—concern for community. Wegner staff members are required to complete community service work.

“We’re not looking for backroom accountant people. Being out in the community with co-ops for Habitat for Humanity or the Boys and Girls Club has been a great recruiting tool to get the kind of people we want at Wegner.

Members of the Wegner CPAs leadership team belong to the National Society of Accountants for Cooperatives and are associate members of NCBA CLUSA.

Click here to register for the August 20 webinar. 

High marks for electric co-ops in J. D. Power study

shutterstock powerlines-web c561eThe National Rural Electric Cooperative Association this week reported that a dozen electric co-ops in the U.S. are outperforming the national average when it comes to price, reliability and customer service. ECT Staff Writer Michael W. Kahn wrote this press release:  

A new J.D. Power study gives a dozen electric cooperatives above-average scores.

More than 104,000 residential consumers served by 138 electric utilities nationwide responded to the 2014 Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study. It asked about several factors, including price, reliability and customer service.

J.D. Power found that overall satisfaction in the residential electric study increased by four index points from the survey taken a year earlier. Jeff Conklin, J.D. Power’s senior director of energy practice, cited two key factors.

“Residential electric utilities have done a great job adding capabilities for proactive communications about outages and upping their corporate citizenship,” said Conklin.

But he cautioned against resting on laurels—noting that improvement in electric utility satisfaction levels isn’t keeping pace with what the firm is seeing in the television and telecom industries.

“Consumers are becoming more familiar with a higher level of service in their daily activities with other service providers and, as a result, their expectations are rising,” Conklin said.

One place where consumers are happy is Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative. It ranked highest among midsized utilities in the East.

“In the seven years that we have received this honor, we increased our score from 641 in 2008 to 703 in 2014,” said Austin J. Slater, Jr., president and CEO of Hughesville-based SMECO.

“We continue to focus on improving reliability and customer service, adapting business processes so we can make it easier for customers to do business with us, and expanding communications so we can meet customers where they are,” Slater added.

Eleven southern co-ops scored above the average for midsized electric utilities in that region, including Sawnee EMC.

“We are again very honored to have our staff’s hard work and dedication acknowledged by a nationally acclaimed surveying organization such as J.D. Power,” said Michael A. Goodroe, president and CEO of Cumming, Georgia-based Sawnee EMC.

“It is a confirmation of what our members continue to tell us each year during our in-house surveys,” Goodroe added, “and we are very appreciative.”


  • 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.

  • Advocacy PR
  • International Development PR
  • CBJ - PR


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.


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


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


  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.  


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 Team

Meet Our Senior Leadership Team

Michael Beall

Michael Beall

President & Chief Executive Officer
Patricia Brownell Sterner

Patricia Brownell Sterner

Chief Operating Officer, NCBA
Amy Coughenour Betancourt

Amy Coughenour Betancourt

Chief Operating Officer, CLUSA International
Anthony La Creta

Anthony La Creta

Chief Financial and Administrative 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.