Founded in 1916, the National Cooperative Business Association, the first national organization for cooperative businesses in the United States, was known as the Cooperative League of America until 1922 and as the Cooperative League of the USA (CLUSA) until 1985. Now known as the National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International, NCBA CLUSA provides cross-sector education, support, and advocacy that helps co-ops in the United States thrive. Throughout its nearly 100 year history NCBA CLUSA has consistently advanced and protected the cooperative enterprise model, highlighting the impact that cooperatives have in the economic success of communities around the world. NCBA CLUSA engages in cooperative and community development in 15 countries including the United States.
Though NCBA CLUSA’s name has changed over the years, its mission never has. For nearly 100 years, NCBA CLUSA remains dedicated to developing, advancing and protecting cooperatives. It is the national voice for cooperatives, helping them compete in a changing economic and political environment.
In 1916, NCBA’s founders created the organization to allow consumer-owned cooperatives to share best practices and management advice. The organization sought to expose businesses that falsely promoted themselves as cooperatives. Over time, the organization evolved and expanded its scope to reflect growth of cooperatives in multiple business sectors.
Today, NCBA’s membership includes all types of cooperatives across all industries-consumer, producer, shared services, and worker-owned co-ops.
Throughout its history, NCBA has worked to make cooperatives a key component of the nation’s economic development policy. Its first president, James Warbasse, served on the Consumer Advisory Board, established under the National Recovery Act during the Great Depression. NCBA’s co-op leaders continue to serve on national advisory boards and councils that set the nation’s economic direction. They also propose legislative and regulatory changes that enhance cooperative businesses.
In the 1970s, as lack of access to credit inhibited the growth of the co-op sector, NCBA successfully lobbied Congress to create the federally chartered National Consumer Cooperative Bank. Now owned by its member co-ops and known as the National Cooperative Bank, which provides lending and other services to the nation’s non-agricultural cooperatives. Today the bank has more than $1 billion in assets and more than 1,800 member-owners.
In the 1990s, NCBA worked with the National Rural Development Task Force to create a new source of funding for cooperatives in rural areas, and to build a strong, networked co-op development infrastructure. The Task Force convinced Congress to establish the Rural Cooperative
Development Grants program in 1991. Since that time, it has provided more than $35 million dollars to a network of centers that help farmers develop cooperatives that enhance their income and boost rural economies. NCBA remains the lead advocate for increased funding for the program.
Over the years, NCBA has played a prominent role in making cooperatives a key component of U.S. international development policy.
In 1944, NCBA formed the Freedom Fund to help cooperatives recover in war-torn Europe. The following year, NCBA played an integral role in creating the Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe, which provided economic relief to war-torn Europe. NCBA President Murray Lincoln was the first president of that organization, now known and recognized worldwide as CARE.
In 1953, NCBA continued its international relief work by helping India’s farmers build an agricultural cooperative infrastructure. That infrastructure created a strong, integrated agricultural sector and helped India become one of the world’s largest producers of milk and dairy products. NCBA also helped develop the Indian Farmers Fertilizer Cooperative, now the largest fertilizer business in Asia.
Since then, in partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development, NCBA’s CLUSA International Development Program has managed over 200 long-term projects in 53 countries in East Asia, Africa and Central America. Its annual international development budget averages $16 million. Because CLUSA was the original name used when NCBA began its international development work, NCBA continues to CLUSA in some developing countries.
In the United States, NCBA has played a key role in creating new self-help businesses and organizations to support the cooperative sector. It helped form:
- Bureau of Cooperative Medicine
- North American Students of Cooperation
- National Association of Housing Cooperatives
- American Travel Association
- Parent Cooperative Preschools International
- Continental Association of Funeral and Memorial Societies
- Cooperative Business International
- Cooperative Grocers Information Network
In 2000, NCBA brought co-ops to the cutting edge of technology by successfully lobbying the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers to create a new top-level Internet domain—.coop—exclusively for cooperatives. One of only seven new domains approved, .coop distinguishes cooperatives from investor-owned businesses and charitable organizations on the worldwide web. The .coop registry launched in January 2002 and now has more than 7,000 .coop Internet addresses that help distinguish them from the .coms and .orgs of the world with their websites and email addresses.
There will always be challenges that face the cooperative community. NCBA CLUSA is dedicated to protecting the cooperative business model, and will continue to provide a unified voice that positively impacts current and future laws that affect cooperative business practices. NCBA CLUSA will continue to be the intersection for the cooperative sectors in the US, promoting cross sector collaboration, and protecting cooperative principles. We will continue to provide innovative cooperative solutions in our international development work, assisting individuals and families to achieve a better, longer, and healthier quality of life. We take our role in the cooperative community seriously, and dedicate ourselves to ensuring that every family continues to have the choice to live cooperatively.
In this article
- Agricultural cooperative
- Business models
- Company Expansion
- Company Founded
- Consumer cooperative
- Housing cooperative
- National Cooperative Business Association
- North American Students of Cooperation
- Person Career
- Social Issues
- North America
- United States
Join the Conversation