DENVER, Co., Nov. 9, 2023 – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA is investing more than $1.2 billion in loans and grants to spur economic development, catalyze rural prosperity and advance equity through rural cooperatives in 36 states and Puerto Rico. Last month, USDA celebrated its 59th annual National Cooperative Month and the vital role cooperatives play in helping people build bright futures in rural America.
“Cooperatives serve as one of our most important partners in delivering critical goods and services to rural communities and is central to President Biden’s Investing in America agenda to rebuild the economy from the bottom up and middle out,” Secretary Vilsack said. “For more than a century, the cooperative business model has been integral to rural advancement and the American economy, and today accounts for more than two million jobs across the country. The investments we are announcing today will ensure that cooperatives continue the important work of serving the unique needs of their communities, filling market gaps and building local wealth and opportunities for connection across rural America.”
Secretary Vilsack made today’s announcement during a roundtable with rural community and small business leaders in Colorado, as officials from the Administration are traveling the country as part of the Investing in Rural America Event Series to highlight how the Biden-Harris Administration’s investments are bringing new revenue to farms, increased economic development in rural towns and communities, and more opportunity throughout the country.
Today’s announcement includes a total of $1.2 billion in awards that will support 112 projects in 37 States, including Washington, where USDA is making the investments through the Rural Cooperative Development Grant Program (RCDG) and the Socially-Disadvantaged Groups Grant Program (SDGG). For example, in Washington State:
- An SDDG grant for $175,000 was awarded to the Northwest Cooperative Development Center based out of Olympia, to ensure technical assistance is accompanied by interpreters or translations, when needed, to fully involve members of the co-ops. This project will assist 13 Cooperatives and assist 13 Socially Disadvantaged Groups.
- The Northwest Cooperative Development Center will also receive a $200,000 RCDG grant to provide technical assistance to ensure cooperatives, and those starting them, are knowledgeable about the cooperative model, make sound business decisions, and have operational and strategic support.
- The Cooperative Development Foundation (CDF) will receive an SDDG grant for $174,946 to provide technical assistance to women owned and particularly Native American owned home care cooperatives in rural areas. The goal of the technical assistance is to help home care co-ops remain profitable, expand operations, and serve more rural residents in need, despite significant industry challenges. In addition, CDF is proposing to continue a partnership begun in 2020 with Native American agriculturalists to enhance the practice of Native-owed food production, marketing and distribution.
- CDF will also receive a $200,000 RCDG grant to provide technical assistance to further the development and execution of a national strategy for rural home care cooperative development. The grant will be used for research, outreach, and conferences, and to build and expand the capacity of home care owners to successfully manage their enterprises.
- The Northwest Agriculture Business Center will receive a $200,000 RCDG grant Cooperative Development Grant to help fund technical assistance services to existing and developing cooperatives located in Grays Harbor, Island, King, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, Pierce, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish, Thurston, and Whatcom counties. NABC is a non-profit business development producer located in Mount Vernon, WA. At least 30 small and emerging cooperatives will be assisted.
“The Biden Administration is Investing in Rural America because it delivers results!” emphasized Helen Price Johnson, State Director of USDA Rural Development, “These amazing partners will multiply the public dollars to create huge opportunities for our rural businesses and the communities they serve.”
Background: Rural Cooperatives
Cooperatives are businesses owned and controlled by the people who use them. Cooperatives differ from other businesses because they are member owned and operate for the benefit of members, rather than to earn profits for investors.
Cooperatives are a trusted, democratic, time-tested business model that builds local wealth for members and communities. Organized to meet the economic needs of its member-owners, a cooperative is a particularly resilient business. It embodies the concept of self-help: members use the cooperative, own it, and control it.
More than 30,000 cooperatives – including agricultural, utility, financial services, purchasing, food and grocery, housing, and retail co-ops - operate at 73,000 places of business throughout the U.S., and account for more than two million jobs, boast about 350 million memberships, and generate more than $700 billion in annual revenue.
USDA Rural Development offers a variety of financial assistance and services to assist rural businesses, including cooperatives and agricultural producers. For more information on cooperatives, visit www.rd.usda.gov/wa.