There are various types of businesses that operate as cooperatives, but according to the National Cooperative Business Association they all are owned and democratically controlled by their members and are designed to serve those members. The members typically are the people who “use the co-op’s services or buy its goods.”
The impact of cooperatives on the U.S. economy is enormous. The dimensions have been documented by research at the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Cooperatives. Here are some of the center’s findings from a study released in March:
- There are more than 29,000 cooperative businesses in the U.S.;
- These businesses operate at 73,000 locations;
- Cooperatives employ about 2 million people;
- The wages and benefits paid to these individuals are estimated to be $75 billion annually;
- The nation’s cooperatives generate annual revenues greater than $654 billion; and
- Americans hold about 340 million memberships in cooperatives, 340 million of which are memberships in consumer cooperatives.
In rural America, we tend to be most familiar with cooperatives related to agriculture. The NCBA estimates that about 30 percent of farmers’ products in the United States are marketed through 3,100 farmer-owned cooperatives. According to an NCBA fact sheet, the nation’s approximately 900 rural electric cooperatives provide electricity to 37 million people.
Cooperatives across America celebrate October as Co-op Month. During this month they undertake various activities designed to increase awareness of the role and accomplishments of co-ops.
Farm News applauds this worthwhile educational effort. The members of the many cooperatives throughout north central Iowa are important contributors to this region’s economic success.
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