NCBA CLUSA partners with Montana Council of Cooperatives on first Co-op Policy Roundtable of 2024


“By working together, co-ops can tackle the most critical issues for people in their communities,” O’Brien said. [photo: Cathy Statz]
Cooperative leaders from across Montana joined NCBA CLUSA president and CEO Doug O’Brien January 29 for a roundtable conversation on cooperative policy priorities and strategies. NCBA CLUSA’s first Co-op Policy Roundtable of the year was part of the Montana Council of Cooperatives (MCOC)’s 64th Annual Meeting and Conference in Great Falls this week.

Launching a series of similar roundtables this year, the event featured a presentation by O’Brien followed by small- and large-group conversations on how the cooperative community can work together to improve the policy environment for cooperatives in Montana and beyond.

The group identified several key policy priorities, including support for cooperative housing for community members and cooperative employees, the need to establish a food system infrastructure focused on the local and regional food system, and policies that would prevent rolling blackouts.

“The policy roundtable was a perfect kickoff for the series of roundtables we plan to facilitate this year across the country. It made clear that when thinking about advocacy work, co-ops should look to Principle 6, or cooperation among cooperatives,” O’Brien said. “By working together, co-ops can tackle the most critical issues for people in their communities.”

Tracy McIntyre, Executive Director of the Montana Cooperative Development Center (MCDC) and Administrator for the Montana Council of Cooperatives, co-led the roundtable and provided insight into how MCDC is active in many state policymaking bodies on issues ranging from cooperative housing and childcare cooperatives to cooperative conversions and grocery stores.

“It was an energizing roundtable [that] helped identify the shared challenges—and also opportunities—that all our cooperatives and communities face across Montana,” McIntyre said, noting that Montana’s 160+ cooperatives across all sectors contribute more than $7 billion to the state’s economy and provide essential services and jobs for rural communities.

“I look forward to seeing where our cooperative community can and will impact policy in the upcoming legislative session,” she added.

Cooperative leaders from across sectors surfaced key policy priorities at this week’s event. [photo: Cathy Statz]
Yesterday’s roundtable included leaders from the Montana’s Credit Unions, the Montana Electric Cooperatives’ Association, the Montana Farmers Union and AgWest Farm Credit, an agricultural lending cooperative serving the western U.S.

Gerry Singleton, president and CEO of Montana’s Credit Unions, said having NCBA CLUSA part of the conversation was valuable. “Principle 6 is alive and well in Montana as we discussed collaboration opportunities across sectors to support inclusive economies.

“I enjoyed spending time with our credit unions and other cooperative sectors brainstorming cooperative solutions and ideas aligned with MCOC’s pillars of cooperative education, networking, advocacy and promotion, and strategy and membership,” he said.

Gary Wiens, CEO of the Montana Electric Cooperatives’ Association, echoed O’Brien’s call to prioritize education among co-op members.

“Unless we remain vigilant in educating our members—especially young adults—we are placing our co-ops’ futures at risk,” Wiens said.

Want to learn more about advocacy priorities for the cooperative community? Our 2024 Policymakers’ Guide, Cooperating for a Better Tomorrow, outlines how policymakers can create economic opportunity worldwide by providing the critical financing and technical assistance cooperatives need to flourish. 
The guide includes infographic statistics on cooperatives, along with key legislative priorities for cooperatives in 2024: fair tax treatment, rural economic growth, addressing the affordable housing crisis, supporting employee ownership, and building a resilient future globally.

Download the 2024 Policymakers’ Guide

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