The 2014 Farm Bill recognized the economic development and wealth-building opportunities of cooperatives by requiring that Federal agencies and cooperative organizations foster and coordinate on cooperative development. Federal partners include agencies with jurisdiction over cooperatives and with programs that cooperative businesses can use. The Agriculture Department, the Internal Revenue Service, the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, the Labor Department, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development are all agencies with direct jurisdiction over cooperatives. The Small Business Administration is required under the Main Street Employee Ownership Act to enter agreements with Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) to conduct training and provide information and resources on employee ownership through cooperatives. Other agencies have programs, information, and/or tools that cooperatives can access depending on the cooperative’s business. States and private sector cooperative organizations are also partners and are encouraged to be active participants in the Interagency Working Group. If your organization is not included here, please contact us at CoopInfo@usda.gov .
The Appalachian Regional Commission is an economic development partnership agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 423 counties across Appalachia. ARC provides loans and grants that cooperatives may be able to benefit from either directly or indirectly by accessing the funds through a governmental entity or nonprofit.
The EDA partners with distressed local communities to foster entrepreneurship, workforce development, and living-wage jobs, and grow businesses and industry clusters. EDA provides grants and loans to state and local government entities, nonprofits, Tribes, colleges, and universities who use the funds to assist cooperatives and other businesses. These programs have varying application dates and individuals and cooperatives should reach out to local contacts that are available at the EDA Economic Development Directory.
The U.S. Department of Commerce, Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) fosters the growth and global competitiveness of minority business enterprises owned by African Americans, Asian Americans, Hasidic Jews, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders. MBDA invests in a national network of MBDA Business Centers, Specialty Centers, and Grantees that offer customized business development and industry-focused services. MBDA additionally provides greater access to capital, contracts and markets through its Advanced Manufacturing Centers, Export Centers, and Federal Procurement Center. MBDA has pilot projects that address entrepreneurship for communities including Native Americans, formerly incarcerated persons, and women.
The Delta Regional Authority works to improve regional economic opportunity by helping to create jobs, build communities, and improve the lives of the 10 million people who reside in the 252 counties and parishes of the eight-state Delta region. Cooperatives may benefit indirectly from grants provided through the States’ Economic Development Assistance Program; applicants are governmental entities and nonprofits. Funds can be used for business and workforce development.
The Denali Commission is an independent federal agency designed to provide critical utilities, infrastructure, and economic support throughout Alaska. The Commission provides workforce and business grants to governmental and Tribal entities and nonprofits. Cooperatives much request funding from these intermediary organizations.
The Department of Energy provides grants to support research and development under the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs and several other programs. Energy also provides workforce training. Its AgStar program, administered in conjunction with EPA, provides information and incentives to implement climate smart technology.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s programs can help cooperatives through energy related technical assistance and funding. Their Compliance Assistance Centers help comply with environmental requirements and save money through pollution prevention techniques. EPA’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization advocates and advances the business, regulatory, and environmental compliance concerns of small and socio-economically disadvantaged businesses. EPA’s Asbestos and Small Business Ombudsman improves access to technical information, contacts and assistance resources. The ENERGY STAR program, jointly administered by EOA and the U.S. Department of Energy, awards labels to energy efficient products that protect the environment and save consumers money. The ENERGY STAR Action Workbook provides step-by-step guidance on ways to increase energy and water efficiency in small business facilities. EPA maintains resources including a list of funding opportunities that promote smart, energy efficient growth and community revitalization. The Vermont energy-efficient, multi-story Battleboro Cooperative Building, which includes a food coop, affordable apartments, won an EPA award for smart growth achievement.
The Federal Reserve helps small businesses and low- and moderate-income communities access technical and financial resources through partnerships with financial, government, and community development stakeholders. The Federal Reserve also researches and promotes innovative strategies to help remediate disparities among regions and neighborhoods. Further, the agency helps low-income individuals access quality jobs and engage in workforce development. These individuals historically have included youth, less-educated, rural, minority, disabled, homeless, and formerly incarcerated individuals.
The HHS Administration for Community Living helps older adults and individuals with disabilities through services, research, and education related to their housing needs. ACL partners with private sector aging and disability networks, federal, state, local, and tribal governments, colleges and universities, nonprofits, and industry partners. ACL also has resources for home care. ACL awards more than one billion dollars in grants, primarily to state and local governments, nonprofit organizations, institutions of higher education and small businesses. A cooperative must contact the organization that has been awarded the grant to access any available funds.
The HHS Health Resources and Services Administration improves health care for people who are geographically isolated or economically or medically vulnerable. HRSA provides grants to organizations and individuals to improve and expand health care services for underserved people, focusing on the health workforce, maternal and child health, rural health, health systems, telehealth, and loan repayment and scholarship programs. HRSA also provides extensive information on health care for underserved individuals and provides training and technical assistance through its grantees. HRSA's Federal Office of Rural Health Policy oversees the Black Lung Clinics grant program and the Veterans Health Access Program.