Concern for Community is the Seventh Co-operative Principle. CoBank, a national cooperative bank based out of Denver, Colorado, is no exception to this. CoBank services the agribusiness, water, communications, and power industries across rural America by providing them with loans, leases, export financing, and other financial services. It is also a member of the Farm Credit System, a network of banks and retail lending associations that support rural borrowers. On top of this, CoBank has a Growing Rural America initiative that helps promote the success of US agriculture by supporting small cooperatives and rural infrastructure providers, young and beginning farmers served by Farm Credit Associations, local food markets, and rural communities.
CoBank’s Growing Rural America initiative has six key components:
- Support for agriculture and local foods: CoBank supports many programs such as the Corbin Hill Food Project, which helps bring fresh produce to underserved communities in New York.
- Corporate giving: CoBank has a program called Sharing Success, where it will match any contributions its cooperative customers make to nonprofit organizations between the amounts of $1,000 to $5,000. Cobank’s employees are also able to direct money from CoBank to a charity of their choice every year.
- Cooperative advocacy and industry support: CoBank supports over 250 industry organizations including co-ops such as Touchstone Energy Cooperatives, the National Cooperative Business Association, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), and the International Co-operative Alliance.
- Research and higher education: CoBank provides scholarships to college students studying agribusiness, finance, or related fields. It also supports industry research and provides financial support for university centers that focus on the study and advancement of cooperatives. Cornell University, Ohio State University, Kansas State University, and University of Alaska-Fairbanks are just a few colleges benefitting from CoBank’s support.
- Rural community development: CoBank is a major sponsor of America’s Best Communities, a 3 year competition designed to help cities & towns throughout rural America grow and thrive.
- Sustainability and the environment: CoBank has a $1.8 billion renewable energy portfolio that consists of biofuels, wind, biomass, hydro, landfill gas and solar energies.
CoBank also aligns with many non-profit organizations such as American Red Cross, Mile High United Way, and Food Bank of the Rockies. It gave more than $8.4 million to non-profits in 2015, including commitments for future years.
Over the past 5 years, CoBank has donated nearly $800,000 to NRECA International. This past year, members of CoBank travelled to Haiti to volunteer their time supporting NRECA International’s It Starts With Power initiative. The following video shows how members of CoBank were able to help NRECA bring power to the people of Haiti:
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