Support funding for the Cooperative Development Program at USAID

May 23, 2005

Sandy Boughton, Acting State Director
USDA Rural Development Program
1835 Black Lake Blvd. SW, Suite B
Olympia, Wa. 98512-5715

Dear Director Boughton,

We're writing to express strong support for a pending request from the Northwest Cooperative Development Center to the USDA for a 2005 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 reached $89 million last year. Our success is closely tied to the relationships we have with local farmers and other local food manufacturers and entrepreneurs.

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 ranchers who supply our stores. Farm 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. By supporting direct marketing for regional producers, it helped return a larger share of the food dollar to regional farmers. It helped open new markets for goat ranchers. It also helped make our region more energy independent by assisting a cooperative to produce renewable hydroelectric power. These projects increased our food security and our economic base, 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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