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Cooperatives Basics

Cooperatives Basics

Cooperative Basics

Cooperatives are member-owned businesses organized by people to provide needed goods and services.

Cooperative Businesses:

  • are owned by the people who use their services;
  • provide an economic benefit for their members;
  • are democratic organizations, controlled by their members;
  • are autonomous and independent;
  • recognize the importance of education about cooperative business and organizational practices;
  • support cooperation among cooperatives, which has resulted in the growing importance of cooperatives in today's global economy; and
  • exhibit concern for their communities.

Cooperatives Serve Many Needs

Cooperatives provide just about any good or service their members need. Cooperatives offer credit and financial services, health care, child care, housing, insurance, legal and professional services. Cooperatives sell food, farm supplies, hardware and recreational equipment. They provide utilities, such as electricity, telephone, television and Internet service. Cooperatives process and market products and goods for members.

  • Throughout the U.S., approximately 48,000 cooperatives serve 120 million citizens. Worldwide, an estimated 750,000 cooperatives serve 730 million members.
  • Cooperatives come in all sizes, from small buying clubs to businesses included in the Fortune 500.
  • About 30 percent of farmers' products and farm supplies in the U.S. are marketed through more than 3,000 farmer-owned cooperatives. A majority of the nation's farmers and ranchers belong to these co-ops.
  • Approximately 900 rural electric cooperatives operate nearly half of the electric lines in the U.S. They provide electricity for more than 37 million people in 47 states.
  • Consumer-owned and controlled cooperatives pioneered prepaid, group-practice health care. Today cooperative health-maintenance organizations (HMOs) provide health-care services to more than 1.2 million American families.
  • Nearly 10,000 U.S. credit unions have more than 84 million members and assets in excess of $600 billion.
  • More than 250 purchasing co-ops offer group buying and shared services to more than 50,000 independent businesses.
  • More than 6,400 housing cooperatives provide dwellings for some 3 million residents. With 1.5 million cooperative housing units, the co-ops serve households with a wide range of income levels and housing needs.
  • Food cooperatives have been innovators in the areas of unit pricing, consumer protection and nutritional labeling. There are about 500 retail food co-ops in the U.S.
  • 270 telephone cooperatives provide service to 2 million households.
  • More than 50 million Americans are served by insurance companies owned by or closely affiliated with cooperatives. There are more than 1,000 mutual insurance companies that total more than $80 billion in net written premiums.
  • Two in every five people in the U.S. belong to a cooperative. That's 40 percent of the U.S. population.

Cooperatives are Part of Your Life  

Cooperatives are everywhere - helping people meet their common needs through group effort.

Cooperative facts courtesy of Cooperative Network