Request from NW Cooperative Development Center for USDA Rural Cooperative Development Grant

May 17, 2006

Director Jon DeVaney
USDA Rural Development Program
1835 Black Lake Blvd. S.W., #B
Olympia, Wash. 98512

Dear Director DeVaney,

I'm writing to express strong support for a pending request from the Northwest Cooperative Development Center to the USDA for a 2006 Rural Cooperative Development Grant.

PCC Natural Markets is the nation's largest consumer-owned natural food grocery cooperative with nearly 40,000 local members. Our sales surpassed $93 million last year. Our success is closely tied to the relationships we have with regional farmers and the overall health of our rural communities.

We also have a longstanding association with the NWCDC, having sublet office space to NWCDC a few years ago. We are very well aware of the important work that the NWCDC does.

There's a critical need to support the local economic infrastructure of the rural communities upon which we all depend. We know this from our ongoing regional work with the Washington Sustainable Food and Farming Network, Tilth Producers, and the numerous farmers and businesses who supply our stores. Economic policies have devastated rural communities in recent decades, favoring large agricultural conglomerates over family farmers and local providers.

Recent economic studies from Texas, Maine and Massachusetts all show that locally owned businesses, such as regional cooperatives, create greater economic benefits than large national chains with a higher percentage of local business profits reinvested back into the community. The cooperative governance structure is more open, more democratic and more inclusive; it is democratic capitalism.

The NWCDC leveraged its grant money extremely well last year. Establishing a new, direct marketing program for agricultural producers in a remote and economically depressed part of our state enabled family businesses to survive where otherwise they could not. Rural Cooperative Development Grant funds also helped make our region more energy independent by assisting a cooperative produce renewable energy. In the coming year, funding would enable the NWCDC to assist two renewable energy projects, including one for biofuels. All these projects support our economic base and increase our food security, contributing to our overall national security.

The Rural Cooperative Development Grant program is a very important program and we ask you to support the NWCDC's grant request. We're confident the grant would be invested appropriately for the betterment of our society and economy as a whole. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Tracy Wolpert
Chief Executive Officer

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