On March 10, Congress passed a comprehensive piece of legislation to fund the federal government through the remainder of Fiscal Year 2022. In the bill, co-op programs received level or slightly increased funding.
In particular, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Cooperative Development Grant (RCDG) program maintained its $5.8 million as well as $3 million for Socially-Disadvantaged Group Grants. These are exclusive federal programs dedicated to advance cooperative business growth in rural U.S. communities. This program has had enormous success in helping to startup, expand and innovate cooperatives across sectors including agriculture, childcare and housing. RCDG has also supported co-op conversions to help retiring business owners sell the company to workers or consumers.
Several RCDG recipients spoke at the 2021 Co-op IMPACT Conference on how they are working to create more equitable, inclusive, and resilient local food systems. You can watch a recording of that session here.
The USDA Rural Energy Savings Program (RESP) received a small increase in the legislation, totaling $11.5 million for FY22. RESP provides zero interest loans to electric cooperatives and other eligible entities to make energy efficiency improvements directly on homes at no to minimal upfront costs to the homeowner. Then, the homeowner can pay back the cost of the project via their monthly bill, and the co-op subsequently pays back the loan to USDA.
NCBA CLUA President and CEO Doug O’Brien recently spoke at a virtual Congressional Briefing, “Financing Inclusive Clean Energy Investments in Rural America.”
“The Rural Energy Savings Program is critical to communities where reducing energy costs can increase disposable income available to a household, and where families may face tough decisions around paying for food, gas, education or medicine.” – Doug O’Brien
You can read more and watch a recording of the Congressional briefing here.
In addition, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Cooperative Development Program (CDP) maintained level funding at $18.5 million. CDP is a global initiative that works to strengthen the capacity of cooperatives and credit unions worldwide. Specifically, CDP works in agriculture, finance, health, energy and information technology. NCBA CLUSA implements CDP through the Creating an Environment for Cooperative Expansion (CECE) project where we work with local governments, cooperative development organizations, private-sector partners and other stakeholders to identify ways to strengthen cooperatives in Guatemala, Peru, Kenya, Tanzania and Madagascar.
Now, Congress will begin considering funding levels for Fiscal Year 2023, which begins on October 1, 2022. Among the programs NCBA CLUSA will be advocating for is an increase to the USDA Rural Cooperative Development Grant program, requesting an increase to $15 million. We strongly encourage cooperators to join us in these advocacy efforts by asking your U.S. Representatives and Senators to support this request. A one-pager with more information on the program and this year’s request is available here. Please reach out to Kate LaTour with questions or for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.