The U.S. Department of Commerce last week acknowledged receipt of a co-signed letter addressing a decades-long absence of federally-reported data on co-ops and said its Census Bureau is currently “researching the feasibly” of including questions on cooperatives in the 2017 Economic Census.
“The Census Bureau is committed to providing assistance to the cooperative business community by helping to document their existence and assessing their economic impact via our collected statistics,” the letter, addressed to U.S. Representative Ed Royce (R-CA), states.
As co-chairs of the Congressional Cooperative Business Caucus, Representatives Royce and Mark Pocan (D-WI) spearheaded the May 17 co-signed letter to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker requesting the inclusion of co-ops in the 2017 Economic Census.
The letter, signed by seven other members of the U.S. House of Representatives—among them three members of the caucus: Ron Kind (D-WI), Reid Ribble (R-WI) and Barbara Lee (D-CA)—points out that since 1997, Economic Census survey forms have not provided a checkbox for “cooperative” in the Legal Form of Organization question.
Last week’s response indicates that the Department of Commerce recognizes the significant potential that coordination among NCBA CLUSA, the Congressional Cooperative Business Caucus and the USDA Interagency Working Group on Cooperative Development has to raise the profile of co-ops in the U.S. and is committed to supporting that process, said Alan Knapp, Vice President of Advocacy for NCBA CLUSA.
“Specifically naming NCBA CLUSA, the caucus and the working group in the letter indicates that Commerce really grasps the need for high-level involvement through these existing channels as a means of engaging stakeholders and finding a solution,” Knapp said.
As a participating agency of the Interagency Working Group on Cooperative Development, the Census Bureau is able to stay up to speed with the needs of the cooperative business community and will “continue to strive to meet those needs,” the letter states. “We look forward to continuing our dialogue with stakeholders throughout the planning and execution of this initiative and the resulting data review,” it adds.