Co-operative development funding increases under US 2020 spending bills

There will be support for international co-op development programmes, energy-efficiency schemes at electric co-ops and rural co-ops

Two bipartisan appropriations bills to fund the federal government for fiscal year 2020 were passed by the US Congress and signed into law by president Trump.

Under the 2020 appropriations packages, US$5.8m is allocated to USDA’s Rural Cooperative Development Grant (RCDG) – the same figure granted in 2019.

The deal also includes $17m for the US Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Cooperative Development Program (CDP), a $5m increase. The competitive grants programme funds US-based co-operative organisations running international co-operative and credit union development projects. These include apex body NCBA CLUSA and the US Overseas Cooperative Development Council (OCDC).

OCDC executive director Paul Hazan said: “The CDP enjoys bipartisan support in Congress because of the demonstrated impact on building sustainable co-operatives leading to self-reliant communities.”

Over the past 18 years, CDP activities have supported more than 500 co-operatives and credit unions with a combined savings of nearly half a billion dollars. OCDC members run projects in 70 countries.

“Co-operatives give millions of otherwise marginalised people the opportunity to own a piece of economic prosperity and join the mainstream of economic and social development,” added Mr Hazen. “With their one member, one vote governance, they also introduce and strengthen democratic principles at the grassroots level.”

The funding bills passed by congress also provide US$1.7bn for USAID’s Food for Peace programme in which NCBA Clusa is also involved. Food for Peace promotes food security through long-term economic development. 

The US Department for Agriculture’s Rural Energy Savings Program will receive $12m, some of which will go to rural energy co-operatives in the form of zero-interest loans for energy efficiency schemes.

Kate LaTour, government relations manager at NCBA CLUSA, commented in a post on NCBA’s website: “NCBA CLUSA advocated vigorously for funding increases for federal cooperative development programs with the support of our members and co-operative community members throughout 2019. We look forward to monitoring the implementation of these important programs throughout FY 2020.”

The bipartisan spending deal was agreed after two months of discussion in Congress. Reaching a compromise meant that Congress was able to avoid a repeat of last year’s 35-day partial government shutdown.