At the March 23 launch of the U.S.-Cuba Cooperative Working Group’s 2017 Report, Cuban and American cooperative experts discussed opportunities to continue building a vibrant, sustainable cooperative ecosystem in Cuba, despite the uncertain nature of the two countries’ bilateral relationship. With more than six decades of experience supporting cooperative development worldwide—beginning in India in 1953—work is Cuba’s co-op sector is hardly an anomaly for NCBA CLUSA, said Amy Coughenour Betancourt, Chief Operating Officer for NCBA CLUSA’s International Programs and founder of its U.S.-Cuba Cooperative Working Group.
NCBA CLUSA submitted a written question to lawmakers ahead of the confirmation hearing for U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Nominee Sonny Perdue, seeking clarity around his familiarity with the economic impact of cooperatives. Perdue is scheduled to testify during his confirmation hearing on Thursday. Despite his experience in the agriculture industry—Perdue spent most of his career in the agriculture business and once ran a fertilizer company before being elected governor of Georgia—NCBA CLUSA is looking for assurance that, as Ag Secretary, Perdue will contribute to a enabling environment for co-op development—specifically, whether he will maintain and prioritize the work of USDA’s Interagency Working Group on Cooperative Development.
Earlier today, the Office of Management and Budget released a Budget Blueprint outlining the Trump Administration’s FY2018 Budget. The Blueprint proposes to reduce or eliminate several programs important to developing and supporting the work of cooperatives, both domestically and abroad. Examples include the elimination of discretionary programs at USDA, such as the Rural Cooperative Development Grant (RCDG), as well as deep reductions in international development funding and the elimination of tailored U.S. development agencies.
Congressional Cooperative Business Caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) welcomed incoming freshmen to the 115th Congress and invited them to join the recently reestablished caucus.
In her introduction of the co-chairs, NCBA CLUSA president and CEO Judy Ziewacz noted that while co-ops inject $3 trillion into the U.S. economy each year, their unique value is offering members a piece of their success. “This caucus shines a light on all the good that co-ops do building wealth in local communities,” she said.
Rep. Royce, a leading Congressional advocate for credit unions, mutual insurers and rural electric co-ops, thanked the cooperative community for supporting passage of the Electrify Africa Act, adding that the cooperative business model works particularly well as a development tool.
“Stop and think for a minute what it means for 50 million human beings, by 2020, to have access to electricity that they would not have otherwise had. Think what it means to those sons and daughters that were burning kerosene lamps or studying by candlelight, when that problem is solved. That is something you did,” Royce told an audience of NCBA CLUSA Board members, co-op sector executives and Congressional staffers.
“I thank you, and I look forward to many additional victories. Let’s look for every opportunity to get the cooperative narrative into every bill we can!” he added.
Caucus co-chair Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) joined Royce at the reception, pointing out that co-ops are integral to the U.S. economy because they create jobs that pay fair wages and offer member-owners a chance to directly shape business decisions. He also pledged the caucus’ continued advocacy on issues affecting cooperatives.
“Our job is to keep the cooperative business model at the forefront, regardless of what may happen. Whether changes in tax policy or anything else, we’ve got to make sure that this cooperative caucus is able to rally its membership and be ready to act,” Pocan said.
Two new representatives have already joined the caucus: Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), serving Wisconsin’s 8th District and Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH), representing New Hampshire’s 1st District. Gallagher is an incoming freshman; Shea-Porter is serving her fourth term in Congress.
“It’s going to be extremely important to recruit more caucus members, given the current political landscape, so we’re going to be counting on the caucus throughout the coming months to get as many members of Congress as we can engaged to support our work,” Ziewacz said.
The State Cooperative Statute Library team has released two new additions to its growing database of co-op law: research on New York’s Cooperative Corporations Law and Wisconsin’s General Cooperative Statutes. Other statutes with complete or near-complete research include the Georgia Agricultural Statue, the Wisconsin Incorporated and Unincorporated Association statutes, the West Virginia Statute, and the Illinois, Iowa, South Dakota and Virginia General and Agricultural statutes, bringing the state total to 18.
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