October is National Co-op Month. There are more than 40,000 cooperatives of all types in the U.S., supporting jobs that provide more than $25 billion in wages. According to a University of Wisconsin study, cooperatives have an estimated 350 million members.
There are many types of cooperatives. Agricultural co-ops directly employ more than 187,000 Americans in more than 8,800 locations. Gross business volume for ag cooperatives was up $6.7 billion in 2018 compared to the year before, and farmer cooperatives had a record $96.3 billion in assets and a record $44.4 billion in farmer-member equity.
The largest number of farmer cooperatives are in Minnesota, followed by Texas, North Dakota, California and Wisconsin. Farm cooperatives did the most business in Iowa ($18.3 billion) followed by Minnesota ($16.2 billion), California, Illinois and Wisconsin.
The theme for this year’s co-op month is “Co-ops: By the Community, For the Community.”
USDA helps cooperatives grow through a variety of ways, including:
- In the Southwest Wisconsin community of Viroqua, population 4,300, USDA partnered with the Bank of Cashton to provide a loan to construct an addition to the Viroqua Food Co-op. Completed last year, the expansion allowed the cooperative to expand offerings of locally and regionally produced food. About 33% of co-op revenue is generated from food products that are sourced within 100 miles of Viroqua.
- In Maine, a USDA Rural Energy for America Grant helped the members of Cranberry Isles Fishermen’s Co-op on Little Cranberry Island install a solar renewable energy system. The system is operating and will produce 110% of the co-op’s power, saving $8,000 annually.