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2012 has been named the "International Year of Cooperatives" by the United Nations. Click here or on the logo above for more info about the impact of cooperatives around the world.

More info on the International Year of Cooperatives can also be found on the National Cooperative Business Association website.


Cooperatives have a large impact on the economy. U.S. cooperatives:

  • create more than two million jobs and pay out more than $75 billion in wages and benefits.
  • own more than $3 trillion in assets.
  • generate more than $654 billion in revenue.

Americans own 350 million memberships in cooperatives. For more info on the economic impact of cooperatives, log on to the University of Wisconsin's Center for Cooperatives website.

Farmers Union has an extensive history of working with cooperatives. Co-ops are one of the three legs of the triangle on which NFU is founded. NFU played a key role in the founding of Farmers Union Terminal Association and Farmers Union Grain Terminal Association, which later merge to become CHS Inc., a Fortune 100 company and one of the largest cooperatives in the U.S. NFU also worked closely with the Rural Electrification Administration to provide electricity to rural residents across the country. For more info on NFU's history with cooperatives, click here .

North Dakota Farmers Union has also looked at NFU's history with cooperatives. For a timeline of NFU's involvement with cooperatives and more info, click here.

Seven Cooperative Principals

  1. Voluntary and Open Membership -- Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.
  2. Democratic Member Control -- Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions. The elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary cooperatives, members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and cooperatives at other levels are organized in a democratic manner.
  3. Members’ Economic Participation -- Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their cooperative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the cooperative. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing the cooperative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the cooperative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.
  4. Autonomy and Independence -- Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their cooperative autonomy.
  5. Education, Training, and Information -- Cooperatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperatives. They inform the general public, particularly young people and opinion leaders, about the nature and benefits of cooperation.
  6. Cooperation Among Cooperatives -- Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.
  7. Concern for Community -- While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies accepted by their members.