Key figures

Key figures

Research overview

Responding to challenges and existing knowledge gaps facing the cooperative movement, this mapping research seeks to provide exhaustive information on cooperatives around the world.

This is achieved through a process jointly conducted by the ICA and its four regional offices – Cooperatives of the Americas, Cooperatives Europe, ICA Africa, and ICA Asia-Pacific – using a common methodology, designed with the support of external experts from the European Research Institute on Cooperative and Social Enterprises (Euricse).

Each office collected the input of ICA members present in the countries within its geographic area, by using a common questionnaire, and completing it with relevant national statistics, in order to obtain a picture of the national situation. As a result, the data above is collected following two strategies: 1) a survey targeting ICA cooperative members 2) collecting national statistics already available in the country. The numbers above provide aggregated data from ICA members on the number of cooperatives, as well as the number of cooperative employees and memberships in the country. More methodological information is available in the full report. In the U.S.A., the data is collected for the reference year 2017.

Mapping out cooperatives in each country provides a more precise picture of the cooperative context at national and regional levels, enhances the movement's visibility, networking, partnerships opportunities, as well as advocacy, and empowers cooperators by providing tools for positive change.

This webpage presents a snapshot of the research results for the U.S.A. For more information and the full research results, you can download the report by clicking on the links above.



Cooperatives in the United States are part of an old tradition of self-help, as old as the nation itself. Throughout history, cooperatives have allowed people to meet common needs by joining forces. The first successful cooperative in the United States was formed in 1752, when Benjamin Franklin formed the Philadelphia Contribution Fund to insure homes lost to fires.



The U.S.A. counts 10 ICA member organisations:

- National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA), is a full member and is the APEX organisation in the U.S.A.

Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, is a full member in the insurance sector.

National Cooperative Bank (NCB), is a full member in the banking sector.

National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), is a full member in the utilities sector.

Credit Union National Association, Inc. (CUNA), is a full member in the banking sector.

- CHS Inc., is a full member in the agricultural sector.

- National Co+op Grocers (NCG), is a full member in the consumer sector.

- CoBank, ACB,  is a full member in the banking sector.

- National Society of Accounts for Co-operatives (NSAC), is an associated member in the associated work sector.

- Land O'Lakes International Development, is an associated member in the agricultural sector.

In the U.S.A. the research questionnaire was distributed to and completed by 1 ICA member organisation. The data collected was for the reference year 2017.


Legal framework

Legal framework
Legal framework

The legal framework analysis aims to provide general knowledge of the national cooperative legislation and of its main characteristics and contents, with particular regard to those aspects of regulation regarding the identity of cooperatives and its distinction from other types of business organisations, notably the for-profit shareholder corporation.

It aims to evaluate whether the national legislation in place supports or hampers the development of cooperatives, and is therefore “cooperative friendly” or not, and the degree to which it may be considered so, also in comparison to the legislation in force in other countries of the ICA region, or at the supranational level.

In addition, the research aims to provide recommendations for eventual renewal of the legal frameworks in place in order to understand what changes in the current legislation would be necessary to improve its degree of “cooperative friendliness”, which is to say, to make the legislation more favourable to cooperatives, also in consideration of their specific identity. This webpage presents a snapshot of the legal framework analysis results for the U.S.A.


The United States of America is organized on a multi-layered system. With few exceptions, the federal government does not charter corporations or businesses. Each state enacts its own statutes authorizing creation of business entities. For many non-cooperative business entities, such as investment corporations, there is uniformity in much of state law as regards business and commerce due to a concerted effort by the private sector Uniform Commission on Laws. In contrast, cooperative corporation law has no uniformity among the states. Where the dominant corporate law evolved to meet the needs of financial capitalism nationally, cooperative statutes arose in different places at different times in response to different sorts of needs. State statutory law for co-ops varies widely from state to state.


Cooperative Friendliness

As a general matter, relative to other types of businesses, co-ops are difficult to establish. With no uniform law, relatively little understanding by regulatory entities, and very sparse investment in technical assistance, people find it difficult to navigate the legal and regulatory landscape.


Key recommendations for improvement

  • Adopt general cooperative incorporation statutes at the state level to make it easier for people to establish cooperatives.
  • Ensure that agencies with the mission of supporting and regulating businesses treat cooperatives fairly and appropriately. 
  • Increase support for cooperative development by providing greater resources for technical assistance at in both rural and urban places. 
  • Increase direct and guaranteed loan programs for cooperatives in all sectors. 



Cooperative policy in the U.S. is varied. In some sectors, there exists a robust set of national and state policies that enable the development and growth of cooperatives. While in other sectors, sparse and erratic policy face those who seek to use cooperatives in their economic and social endeavors. Thus, there is significant opportunity for federal, state and local policy makers to improve the policy environment with greater support for public awareness, technical assistance, and financing of the cooperative business model.




The legal frameworks analysis is a tool developed under the ICA-EU Partnership #coops4dev. It is an overview of the national legal frameworks at the time of writing. The views expressed within are not necessarily those of the ICA, nor does a reference to any specific content constitute an explicit endorsement or recommendation by the ICA. 

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