WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture helped to produce a new study and database assessing the national economic impact of cooperatives. Titled "Research on the Economic Impact of Cooperatives," the study is the result of extensive research that began in 2006.

Highlights of the study include: Number of cooperatives, 29,284; total revenue, more than $654 billion; income, $133 billion; wages, $75 billion; and number of employees, more than 2 million.

"Because of the hard work that U.S.D.A. and its partners did, the nation now has a more definitive view of the role and economic strength of cooperatives in our economy," Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said. "Historically, cooperatives have always been extremely important to rural America, serving as economic engines and innovators. This study shows how significant their impact is nationwide."

U.S.D.A.'s Rural Development received a $1.5 million congressional appropriation to develop the project in conjunction with the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the National Cooperative Business Association and other private-sector associations. The study is the first of what is expected to be a series of reports, analyses and web-based resources stemming from this multi-year effort.

The data and findings from the study are at http://reic.uwcc.wisc.edu. A cooperative is a business mutually owned and democratically controlled by members who benefit from its products and services. Cooperatives are formed to meet the specific objectives of members, and are structured to adapt to members' changing needs.

This study was led by U.S.D.A. Rural Development's Cooperative Services Program.

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