Organic Valley's new "Generation Organic" program nurtures new family farmers

Generation-Organic-for-Young-Farmers-Organic-Valley 661f9A new kind of farm crisis is looming. As farmers retire, there's a significant and growing chance that their land will not remain in the family—or even in farm production—for the next generation. NCBA CLUSA member Organic Valley is working with farmers to keep agriculture accessible to people who want to stay on the family farm and to attract more people onto land to begin farming. StrongerTogether.coop, the consumer-facing website of National Co+op Grocers, published this story

Generation Organic—“Gen-O”—is Organic Valley’s program to nurture farmers under the age of 35, providing education and giving them tools to support their operations.

The parents of these young farmers lived through the farm mortgage crisis of the 1980s and a bottoming out of commodity markets. In 1988, one group of farmers in southwestern Wisconsin organized the Coulee Region Organic Produce Pool (CROPP)—the producer cooperative behind the Organic Valley name—in order to survive.

Organic Valley started for one reason: to save family farms. Now with more than 1,800 members from coast to coast, Organic Valley is the largest organic farmer-owned cooperative in North America. Farmers have an integral role in how the co-op is run; they serve on its board of directors and executive committees, determine fair and stable milk prices that cover their production costs, and give voice to issues and challenges facing farmers around the country. As demand increases for organic products, the cooperative is helping farmers to not simply survive, but to thrive.

“It’s a huge change from the 1980s, when farm parents were telling their kids to get off the farm and go elsewhere if they wanted to have a successful career,” explains Kristina Ralph, the Gen-O program coordinator at Organic Valley and one of its member farmers. “Now parents connected to Organic Valley are saying, ‘Farming is a viable option.’ It’s a huge change in agriculture.”

Young Organic Valley farmers and the children of farmers first came together in 2006 to network, share ideas and have conversations about the future of the CROPP co-op. By 2013, Gen-O had developed into a more formal group guided by a nine-member executive committee of farmers and a mission statement.

“Our mission is to build and inspire a community of engaged young farmers, safeguarding and shaping the future of CROPP Cooperative through education, support and leadership,” Kristina says. “Gen-O farmers support each other. We are learning to become leaders on our farms and within the co-op itself.

“The core of Gen-O is focused on future farmers and succession planning,” Kristina says. She explains that, among farms that have been operated by the same family for two or more generations, an estimated 70 percent will not pass on to a successor and will instead be sold.

To counteract that trend, Gen-O is embracing one of the seven cooperative principles: education, training and information for members. Leadership development, succession planning, ensuring a livelihood for young farmers, and ensuring that organic farming is sustainable are key topics. Gen-O is helping farmers develop new skills and giving them the tools to engage in their community as advocates for organics and farming. It’s also providing advocacy training on the best ways to approach elected officials on farming issues and agricultural policy.

The future viability of farming is intrinsic to Generation Organic, Organic Valley and the farmer-owners who are caring for the land and animals that provide their livelihood and nutritious, wholesome foods for consumers. “What excites me about Gen-O and young farmers is a general sense of reinvigoration of young people who want to farm,” Kristina says. “Not just at Organic Valley. Small organic farms across the nation are changing our agricultural landscape into more of a community, which is what family farming is all about.”

Delta Regional Market Cooperative grand opening revitalizes Mississippi Delta community

Marks delta SS mural 8c3b5The 12 panel mural outside the market warehouse was revealed on opening weekend.

(October 14, 2015)

After more than a year of planning, the first annual Mules and Blues Festival kicked off the celebration of the grand opening of the Delta Regional Mule Train Cooperative Market in the small Delta town of Marks, Mississippi. The cooperative market, bringing in artisans, farmer co-ops and local entrepreneurs to a large warehouse, will provide access to fresh, nutritious, locally-sourced food to an area that officials have described as a “food desert.”

The town of Marks, which is most famously known for being the beginning of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign “Mule Train” to Washington, DC in 1968, saw hundreds of visitors on hand for the weekend celebration. Festivities were marked by a ceremony unveiling the twentieth marker of the Mississippi Freedom Trail, the commemoration of the Mule Train Museum, and the unveiling of a 12-panel, 96-foot long historical mural depicting various stages of the journey from Marks, MS to Washington, DC. Local officials, including the mayor of the city of Marks and Mississippi State Senator Robert Jackson were in attendance for the opening ceremonies.

Many of the residents on hand at the celebration were a part of the original Mule Train, some walking all the way to Washington, DC from Northern Mississippi.

With support from NCBA CLUSA, the Shreveport Federal Credit Union (SFCU) along with regional partners such as the USDA Development Authority, Federation of Southern Cooperatives, and the Quitman County Board of Supervisors established the Delta Regional Mule Train Market as a point of revitalization for this town of just over 1,600 residents. Seven years ago SFCU opened a branch in Marks, Mississippi to expand their services to the broader community in the Mississippi Delta region. The credit union’s leadership embraced their unique position as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) and began building alliances with other cooperative organizations with a focus on using their collective resources to address the many needs and opportunities of the region.

Led by Mrs. Helen Godfrey-Smith, CEO of SFCU and Dr. Birdex Copland, SFCU’s Chairman of the Board, the idea for the market 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. It was decided that the establishment of the Delta Regional Mule Train Cooperative Market provided a means to overcome these challenges by offering the venue for farmers, artisans, and others to bring items to market inexpensively, allowing them to realize the financial benefits resulting from their labors and creativity. The Market Co-op is 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.

In addition to being a food hub for the community, the market also features a Kidzone and a small food court.

This revitalization has also sparked a collaboration between the town of Marks and AmTrak, who has begun the work of establishing a train station in the heart of Marks, connecting the small town with large cities like New Orleans, LA and Memphis, TN opening the door for much needed tourism and commerce.

After the co-op market opening, the Mules and Blues Festival continued in a local park, with plenty of barbecue and local blues musicians performing, including local native Stephen Pride, brother of country music star Charley Pride.

Residents of Marks are excited to support the cooperative market as a showcase for the communities’ cultural roots and a commemoration of its place in the Civil Rights movement and American history.



Leveraging co-op buying power in employee benefit plans

iStock employee-benefits-500 225f2Purchasing co-ops have it figured out: take a bunch of independent businesses, aggregate their purchasing power together and negotiate better deals with suppliers. This seemingly simple business model has proven extremely powerful and durable in the modern business landscape. Yet, for all of the ingenuity behind purchasing co-ops, most have yet to realize the full scope of their purchasing power.

It is true that the aggregate dollars of each co-op’s members drive down the cost of goods—but this same buying power can drive down the cost of other services. Some co-ops have begun to move in the direction of creating these back-office efficiencies through access to business partner programs. Services such as inventory management and credit card processing are now key tools in the co-op’s toolbox, but there are other programs that deserve attention. Most co-ops have yet to explore the area of financial services and group benefit plans that can be aggregated under the co-op banner. Key employee benefits such as retirement planning and health insurance are ripe for a co-op revolution.

One thing is certain: if you want to attract and retain high-quality employees, it is imperative you offer a high-quality benefits package. A 2013 survey indicated that 60 percent of respondents who planned to work for their companies until retirement identified their retirement plans as a key factor in deciding to stay. Health care was even more important. Co-ops are great at leveraging goodwill and personal values to attract the right kind of talent, but for small and medium-sized co-ops, the costs of offering a benefits package are often prohibitive. It doesn’t have to be this way. By applying and leveraging buying power to services, co-ops can design benefits packages that compete with what the big-boxes can offer.

Co-ops can also increase their member retention through the use of these programs. By integrating more functions of modern businesses, the co-op becomes the most crucial business relationship the individual members have. A symbiotic relationship is born, where co-op and member alike rely on each other for survival. Pure purchasing co-ops are at risk of industry competitors forming similar buying groups and poaching co-op members. By creating a sticky relationship, where the benefits are more than simply negotiating a better price on goods, co-ops can help protect against this type of competition. Due to laws and regulations, retirement and group benefit plans are typically off-limits to small and medium sized companies that join pure industry buying groups, whereas co-ops are a natural fit for such programs.

Members can be hesitant to join co-op programs that integrate back-office functions, but in most cases the benefits truly do outweigh the costs. Co-ops should be careful in designing programs that appeal to their membership and should solicit constant feedback from their members. A baseline employee census can help the co-op design programs that work from the outset, yet many members are cautious in supplying that data. Mature co-ops tend to have the best results, but all co-ops and their members stand to gain a competitive advantage by applying purchasing power to business services.

—NCBA CLUSA Gold Level Associate Member and Business Sponsor The Capital Group is a retirement and insurance solutions provider that works with co-ops and national trade organizations to design and implement unique benefits programs that drive value and help create long-lasting relationships between national sponsors and their members. This thought leadership piece was written by Andrew Thompson, Vice President of Qualified Plan Services for The Capital Group, and Andrew Seaborg, a Partner with The Capital Group. The Capital Group is a Silver Level sponsor of NCBA CLUSA's 2015 National Purchasing Cooperatives Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, next week. 

Disclosures: Andrew Thompson and Andrew Seaborg are registered representatives of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. Securities and investment advisory services offered through Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp., a broker/dealer (member SIPC) and registered investment advisor. Insurance offered through Lincoln affiliates and other fine companies. CRN-1307474-092215

Is your co-op's order-to-cash performance moving in the right direction?

iStock-business-500 79994A recent benchmark report from The Accounts Receivable Network measures how companies are making strides in integrating and automating their processes.

Everywhere you look in business, the barriers to collaboration and integration are breaking down. And few areas show that more strikingly than Finance. Whether it’s a closer working relationship between procurement and accounts payable or better collaboration between accounts receivable, billing, and collections, silos are falling. Recently The Accounts Receivable Network (TARN) published a benchmark study, "Benchmarks: AR/Order-to-Cash Integration, Automation, and Performance Metrics" measuring each of those areas, based on study participants. What that study found was that functions that were once highly decentralized are now, for the most part, centralized in a single center. By taking a more holistic approach, Accounts Receivable, rather than just being the center where payments are received, is now part of the whole order-to-cash continuum, including billing, collections, credit management, reporting and sales order entry.

Participants included 100 organizations, 65 percent of them B2B enterprises, that ranged in size from companies with less than 500 employees (34 percent) and less than $50 million in revenue (27 percent) all the way up to those with more than 50,000 employees (13 percent) and more than $25 billion (11 percent) in revenue. The Finance/ Insurance and Healthcare/Social Assistance sectors comprised the largest participation.

Accounts Receivable 

When talking about integration, it’s first necessary to establish the operational models of the participant, from fully centralized to partially centralized to decentralized, all the way down to outsourced. The study shows that centralization in a single center is the major model, with percentages in the various order-to-cash functions ranging from 32 to 49 percent. Another obstacle to full integration comes in the reporting hierarchy, which varies according to the specific function. This can definitely get in the way of a more holistic approach, especially when:

Credit reports to Controller or CFO (23 percent/22 percent)

Order Entry reports to Sales manager/director or Controller (30 percent/20 percent)

Collections reports to Chief accounts receivable or Controller (21 percent/18 percent)

Order-to-Cash Integration

When the report turned to order-to-cash integration, companies were asked how important they consider process integration to be. Companies supplied answers from absolutely no linkage (13 percent) all the way up to formal coordination at 43 percent. And when it comes to measuring a company’s attitude toward process ownership, 45 percent (a percentage almost twice as large as any other response) said, “We perceive value in taking a process view and examining possible realignment of functions for better integration.”


The prevailing view is that automation has made its mark felt most strongly in the procure-to-pay (P2P) process, but that order-to-cash (O2C) automation is moving up. The TARN survey measures the level of automation the respondent is currently employing and planning to implement, as well as comparing the levels of automation across functions. Although there are automation solutions for every step in the order-to-cash and credit-to-cash cycle, most companies questioned have not implemented many of them. Of those surveyed, only one technology, ACH, passed the 50 percent mark. Others close behind are ERP/Accounting System (49 percent) and Electronic Lockbox Imaging (48 percent).

When it comes to planning for the future, close to 40 percent of respondents indicated that they were not planning to implement any automation technologies (other than those that already existed). Other responses for planned automation technology were:

Customer Portal (17 percent)

Cash Application Automation (14 percent)

E-invoicing system/EIPP/EBPP (12 percent)

ERP or Accounting System (12 percent)

E-payment Acceptance Solution (11 percent)

Automated Sales Order Processing (10 percent)

Of the specific functions that were automated, billing and AR held the top positions, while credit and collections were the least automated.

Performance Metrics

You can’t manage what you can’t measure yet many of the companies in this report only measure basics, such as days sales outstanding (DSO) and the percentage of current AR, both at around 70 percent. Only one other metric ranked above 50 percent, that being the percentage of AR greater than 60 days. All other metrics tracked at 40 percent or lower.

Improve your accounts receivable department with the right automation solution.

—NCBA CLUSA Gold Level Associate Member and Business Sponsor Corcentric provides financial process automation solutions for buying groups, purchasing cooperatives and their members. This thought leadership piece was written by Corcentric Senior Vice President of Sales Dave Lindeen.

NCBA CLUSA’s ‘Operation Connect’ will convene credit unions, electric co-ops to offer financial literacy, energy efficiency education

OperationConnect-logo-500 92f6a

(September 22, 2015)

Currently in its pilot stage, a project designed to promote financial literacy in communities served by electric cooperatives while building credit union membership is gaining momentum and generating enthusiasm among co-op sector leaders.

Called Operation Connect, the project brings together credit unions and rural electric co-ops operating in the same geographic location to promote financial literacy, budgeting skills and long-term financial planning for the 42 million electric co-op members nationwide.

“A small but significant portion of these members experience difficulty in meeting their payments, often due to a lack of financial literacy in budgeting their financial obligations,” said project architect Adam Schwartz, an NCBA CLUSA senior consultant for Domestic Operations and founder of The Cooperative Way. “The payment collection process, disconnect and reconnect of electricity is costly for both consumers and electric co-ops,” he added.

“If we can intercede to end this cycle, we can improve quality of life for electric co-op members while also growing the number of credit union members,” Schwartz said.

In Virginia, the Fort Lee Federal Credit Union and Prince George Electric Co-op have already partnered to offer financial literacy seminars paired with easy, low-cost home improvement ideas to help lower monthly household energy costs. There are several other potential cross-sector partnerships in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Colorado and Minnesota, Schwartz said.

NCBA CLUSA is working with its project development partners, including the CUNA Cooperative Alliance Committee, and the National Credit Union Foundation to create a toolkit that credit unions and electric co-ops can use to expedite the rollout of Operation Connect nationwide.

Pat Sterner, NCBA CLUSA COO for Domestic Operations, said cross-sector efforts, such as Operation Connect, are a priority for NCBA CLUSA. “We are thrilled to launch a project that puts Principle 6—cooperation among cooperatives—in action while building financial independence and energy efficiency in communities across the U.S.,” she said.

NCBA CLUSA anticipates a full launch of Operation Connect in 2016, Sterner said.


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.

Association Services

  Pat Brownell Sterner, Chief Operating Officer Click Here To Email Pat 202-638-6222   Thomas Bowen,  Director of Membership Click Here to Email Thomas Bowen 202.383.5461                           The National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA (NCBA CLUSA) represents a cross-sector co-op community of more than 40,000 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


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



  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

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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 opportunity/affirmative action employer with a commitment to diversity.  All individuals, regardless of personal characteristics, are encouraged to apply; all qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, political affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, disability, protected veteran status, genetic information, age, and legally protected characteristics for non-merit factors. NCBA CLUSA is committed to providing reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities in all facets of employment, including the employment application and selection process. If you have a disability that affects your ability to use our online system to apply for a position at NCBA CLUSA, please send an email to Misti French or call 202-383-5465.



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The Team

Meet Our Senior Leadership Team

Judy Ziewacz

Judy Ziewacz

President and CEO (Interim)
Patricia Brownell Sterner

Patricia Brownell Sterner

Chief Operating Officer, NCBA
Amy Coughenour Betancourt

Amy Coughenour Betancourt

Chief Operating Officer, CLUSA International
Valeria Roach

Valeria Roach

Chief Financial 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.