October is National Co-op Month, so I would like to spend some time highlighting the benefits of cooperatives for rural America and the cooperative members.
The cooperative system plays a vital role in improving economic opportunity and quality of life in rural America. The 29,000 U.S. cooperatives, including agricultural, utility, financial services, food/grocery, housing and retail co-ops, generate more than $650 billion in annual revenue. The 2,106 U.S. Agricultural Cooperatives alone account for 187,000 jobs and have over 2 million member-owners.
Recently, I was working with a city in our trade area who is doing a project on the impact of agriculture in their community. When reaching out to the local businesses they asked: "What percent of products made are related to agriculture?". The answer was less than 10%. However, when they dug in and did additional research they found the total was more than 80%.
Cooperatives give back to their member by distributing earnings to the membership. They give back to communities through donations and their employees volunteer and provide many services to local communities.
For our members, we provide a reliable and ever-present place to get products and services. Cooperatives do not get in the market when times are good and we do not exit the market when times get tough. We are there for the long run, good times and bad. Cooperatives roots run deep and can be traced into the 1800's.
The cooperative model is a great business model that has been around for a very long time. Though it continues to evolve it will play an important role in rural communities for many years to come.