New Farm Bill could help strengthen agricultural co-ops in the US

24 Feb 2014

The US Congress passed a Farm Bill that could create a more favourable environment for agricultural co-operatives. The Bill, which sets out US’ farm policy for the next five years, was passed by both the US Senate (by a 68-32 vote) and the House of Representatives (251-166).

The National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA) welcomed the passage of the Bill, which is likely to increase co-ordination between US Department of Agriculture (USDA), federal agencies and national and local co-operative organisations.

“We are pleased to hear that Congress has approved a new Farm Bill and we look forward to continuing our work with the USDA and others to fully implement the policies and programs approved by this legislation,” said Michael Beall, President of NCBA CLUSA.

“We look forward to convening our members and supporters to work with USDA every step of the way on this working group to ensure that the needs of cooperative development are heard and supported by USDA and any other federal agency.”

As stipulated in the new Bill, the USDA Secretary will coordinate an interagency working group to foster co-operative development and ensure coordination with federal agencies and national and local co-operative development organisations.

The Bill also preserves authorised funding for the Rural Cooperative Development Grant programme, which supports co-operative development centres to improve the economic condition of rural areas by assisting individuals and entities in starting or expanding rural co-operatives and other enterprises.

Under the new Bill, the USDA will continue co-operative research agreements with qualified academic institutions in each fiscal year to conduct research on the role of co-operatives in the national economy. The Bill also endorses the Food for Progress Act, a programme administered by the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, which the NCBA has been very supportive of.

Through the Food for Progress programme recipient countries receive agricultural commodities from the US, which are then sold on the local market and the proceeds are then used to support infrastructure development, agricultural and economic programmes in these countries. NCBA CLUSA is one of the organisations leading such projects in East Timor, Uganda and Senegal, helping to improve the lives of farmers and strengthen their co-operatives.

 

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