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Cooperatives Build Rural Communities

Cooperatives Build Rural Communities

Across America, a plethora of cooperative businesses are integral to rural communities and economies, offering essential services that enable citizens and businesses to grow and thrive. Owned and governed by their members, these cooperatives focus on long-term needs rather than short-term profits, creating the foundation on which rural American communities depend. All Americans benefit from the food, fuel and fiber that are produced by these cooperatives’ members and distributed throughout the nation.

Agricultural cooperatives are among the most prevalent cooperatives, with nearly 3,000 supporting their producer-members with essential services that enable them, and in turn their communities, to grow. Many of these cooperatives are Farm Credit customer-owners, including Vineland Cooperative Produce Auction Association, Louisiana Sugar Cane Cooperative, and Knouse Foods.

Equally important are the rural infrastructure cooperatives that provide the network of essential services required by these cooperatives and agribusiness, as well as rural communities and the citizens who call them home.

Electricity, taken for granted by many, is the lifeblood of rural communities. It provides power to homes and schools to help our next generation learn and grow; to hospitals and libraries to care for and enrich rural citizens; and to farms and other rural businesses to strengthen and maintain rural economies. Our rural communities thrive because of the reliable, safe and affordable electricity delivered by our nation’s more than 900 rural electric cooperatives. Among these are Farm Credit customers Associated Electric Cooperative, Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative and Vermont Electric Cooperative.

Clean water, too, is often taken for granted, but is equally essential to building our rural communities’ financial and physical health. Hospitals, schools, farms and homes rely on clean water to drink, to water fields and to facilitate economic growth. Nearly 3,300 water cooperatives across the country work to serve these critical needs. Among them is MidSouth Synergy, a CoBank customer-owner, which offers a prime example of rural cooperatives’ commitment to building their communities: it's provided electricity since 1940, and water services since the late 1990s.

Perhaps most pressing in today’s information-driven world is the need for high-speed, broadband communications, as essential in rural America as it is in our cities and suburbs. Even the federal government has recognized that internet access is an essential utility, as important as electricity and telephones. However, access to broadband in our rural communities falls far short: only one-third have access to broadband. Working to deliver that connectivity to enable these communities and business to flourish are 260 rural telephone cooperatives as well as hundreds of other small communications providers. Farm Credit is proud to support many of these businesses, including cooperatives such as Blackfoot Telecommunications Group, as they work to connect their customers to the world.