“Historically, cooperatives have always been extremely important to rural America, serving as economic engines and innovators,” says USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. To dig deeper, USDA helped produce a comprehensive new study and database to assess  the national economic impact of cooperatives.

Called “Research on the Economic Impact of Cooperatives,” the study began in 2006. It shows that more than 29,000 American cooperatives generate revenues of more than $654 billion and employ more than 2 million workers. A cooperative is defined as a business mutually owned and democratically controlled by members who benefit from its products and services. Cooperatives are formed to meet the specific objectives of members and are structured to adapt to members’ changing needs.

USDA’s Rural Development received a $1.5 million congressional appropriation to develop the project in conjunction with the University of Wisconsin, the National Cooperative Business Association and other private-sector associations. The study is the first of what is expected to be a series of reports, analyses and Web-based resources stemming from this multi-year effort.

Here are some of the key findings:

  • Number of cooperatives: 29,284.
  • Total revenue: More than $654 billion.
  • Income generated: $133 billion.
  • Wages paid: $75 billion.
  • Number of employees: More than 2 million.

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