Sen. Johnson Introduces Legislation for International Year of Cooperatives

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U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) has introduced a bipartisan resolution to recognize 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives. “The International Year of Cooperatives” recognizes and celebrates the importance of cooperatives in the United States, especially within rural communities.

“As a member of the Congressional Farmer Cooperative Caucus, I have consistently supported cooperative businesses,” Johnson said. “I think it is essential to highlight the meaningful contributions that cooperatives offer to South Dakota, the United States, and around the world.”

The resolution aims to recognize the substantial economic and social impact of cooperatives, and encourages the creation of programs, both domestically and abroad for cooperative development. Internationally, cooperatives are credited with having a massive economic and social impact. The cooperative business model spreads the “one member, one vote” philosophy of governance, which provides a tangible example of the democratic process in developing nations. The result is that cooperatives, with over a billion international members, play a role in encouraging democracy around the globe.

“There is no doubt of the impact of cooperatives in providing services and benefits to their member-owners, from the state of South Dakota and throughout the world,” said Brenda Forman, the Executive Director of the South Dakota Association of Cooperatives. “This resolution recognizes those accomplishments.”

Johnson, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has long supported the Rural Cooperative Development Grants (RCDG) program. The RCDG program is the only federal grants program devoted solely to forming and expanding cooperatives. The grants are meant to advance the economic condition of rural areas through the development and improvement of existing cooperatives.

Cooperatives are democratically controlled businesses, owned by their members and operating for the mutual benefit of their members. In South Dakota, there are 81 farm supply/marketing cooperatives, 30 electric cooperatives, 50 credit unions and eleven telephone/communication cooperatives. The SD Association of Cooperatives estimates that between 27,000 and 30,000 South Dakotans are members of cooperatives. Cooperatives within the state were responsible for $6.8 billion in sales in 2008. Nationally, Americans hold 350 million memberships in cooperatives.

The resolution enjoys bipartisan support, with cosponsors including Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), Sen. Herbert Kohl (D-WI), Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AK), Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT).

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