In the face of economic shifts, NCBA CLUSA urges Congress to preserve funding for co-op development

A generation of retiring baby boomers and the impacts of COVID-19 are changing the economic landscape for many Americans.

On Tuesday, NCBA CLUSA President and CEO Doug O’Brien submitted public witness testimony to the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA and related agencies.

In his testimony, O’Brien urged the committees to fully fund the Rural Cooperative Development Grant (RCDG) program at its authorized level of $40 million. If all other programs under this section received level funding from Fiscal Year 2020, that would result in nearly $20 million in grants available for technical assistance to co-ops in rural communities.

Our economy is on the verge of an enormous shift—both as our largest generation approaches retirement as well as in the wake of the economic consequences of COVID-19. Converting businesses to a cooperative will do enormous good in sustaining our economy. Conversions could create millions of new owners—especially through worker and consumer ownership—and generate greater wealth-building opportunities for millions of people. Moreover, converting to a cooperative puts decision-making in the hands of those who have the most at stake and have an interest in ensuring the long-term success of the business—workers and users. In many communities, cooperative businesses provide a lifeline to necessary goods and services.

O’Brien also called for $15 million for USDA’s Rural Energy Savings Program. RESP provides zero-interest loans to electric cooperatives and other eligible organizations to make energy efficiency improvements on homes at no additional cost to residents. After the energy improvements are made, consumers pay for the investment through on-bill financing so it appears directly on a consumer’s monthly bill. Meanwhile, consumers often benefit from lower monthly bills as a result of more efficient energy consumption.

Finally, as an international development organization, O’Brien urged appropriators to provide robust funding for USDA’s McGovern-Dole Food for Education program, administered by the Foreign Agriculture Service. In his testimony, O’Brien highlighted NCBA CLUSA’s USDA-funded Food Transition for School Canteens (TACSS) project in Senegal. This project seeks to improve school nutrition programs, and ultimately school attendance, by strengthening local and regional food procurement processes.

Last month, O’Brien testified before the House Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations urging strong funding for international development programs, including USAID’s Cooperative Development Program.

NCBA CLUSA will continue to work with Congress to support strong funding levels for programs that invest in cooperative development, domestically and abroad.

Read O’Brien’s full testimony.


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