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EDITORIAL Rural cooperatives are the backbone of New Mexico’s critical infrastructure, By Patricia Dominguez, USDA Rural Development State Director

Ernie Watson
Albuquerque, N.M.
Release Date

As I travel across New Mexico, I see how USDA Rural Development has partnered with cooperatives to foster economic growth.

 Over the years, we’ve supported cooperatives through programs and activities like the Electric Loan Program. For example, in March we loaned $60 million to Farmers’ Electric Cooperative, in Clovis, so they can provide more electric services to their customers.

The Biden-Harris Administration and USDA will continue to invest in rural America because we know a strong community is rooted in its people.

Rural people demonstrate that incredible strength when they work together to provide their communities with quality, essential services through cooperatives.

The cooperative business model is one that is trusted and time-tested to build economic power for members and communities.

Many communities rely on cooperatives as they provide almost every service imaginable including agricultural, utility, purchasing, food and grocery, housing, childcare, retail, and financial services. 

There are more than 30,000 American cooperatives, which generate more than $700 billion in annual revenue and account for more than 2 million jobs.

Cooperatives are a sustainable model evidenced by the fact that 23% of agricultural co-ops are more than 100 years old and 54% are more than 75 years old. 

The investments made by Rural Development are critical to improving economic opportunity and advancing equity in America. We’ve done this by partnering with rural electric cooperatives to install smart grid technologies, working with telecommunications cooperatives to connect people to high-speed internet, working through credit unions to provide access to capital for business development, and many other projects. 

 That’s why, each year during October, USDA Rural Development celebrates National Cooperative Month to champion cooperatives working tirelessly to provide essential goods and services across the country.

This year’s theme is “Owning Our Identity.” This theme reminds us that cooperatives are a unique business model governed by social and ethical values like self-help, democracy, equity, solidarity, honesty, and social responsibility. These values set co-ops apart from other business models in that their purpose is not to simply generate profit, but to bring people together for the good of the entire community.

USDA will continue to create opportunities to help people in rural communities sustain, start, and expand cooperatives here in rural New Mexico and across the nation, because when rural people thrive, America thrives.