FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Mr. President, Distinguished Delegates,
The United States supports fully the International Year of Cooperatives. Cooperatives and credit unions play a major role in the U.S. economy. More than 125 million Americans belong to over 21,000 cooperatives in agriculture and agribusiness, finance, rural electrification and communication, housing, consumer goods and retailing. Throughout the history of U.S. cooperatives, state governments as well as the federal government, have encouraged cooperation and regulated cooperative enterprise, while recognizing that successful cooperatives are those that serve their members’ interests. The result has been a strong, autonomous cooperative movement that plays a major role in the U.S. economy with revenues that exceed $230 billion.
In particular, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has 80 years of experience supporting and implementing cooperative programs. The USDA Rural Development Cooperative Services Program promotes understanding and use of the cooperative form of business as a viable organizational option for marketing and distributing products. Cooperatives are a cornerstone of business development in rural communities, whether in the traditional form that brings daycare services to a rural community, or in the form of today’s new generation of biofuel cooperatives which lessen our dependence on foreign oil. Cooperatives provide rural residents with new job opportunities, enhanced educational and health care services, and products which enable them to compete in today’s global marketplace. The USDA Cooperative Program provides assistance for rural residents interested in forming new cooperatives, and administers programs that fund value-added producer grants, rural cooperative development centers, and provides assistance to small socially-disadvantaged producers.
In addition to our domestic cooperative programs, the United States also provides international development assistance in partnership with cooperative development organizations, drawing on the experience and expertise of U.S. cooperatives in economic development programs. Some of the project we have supported include creating an international credit union movement with more than 72 million members, building rural electric systems in the Philippines and Bangladesh that serve close to 50 million households, and helping to establish the Indian Farmers Fertilizer Cooperative that, today, is one of the world’s most successful fertilizer firms.
The United States is happy to participate in this launch of the International Year of Cooperatives, which we hope will help raise awareness of the benefits of cooperatives.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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