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National Co-op Month: ND Co-ops Anchor Rural Communities

Jim Wznick is president of the North Dakota Cooperative Managers' Association. There are about 500 co-ops in the state. (Courtesy of Wznick)
Jim Wznick is president of the North Dakota Cooperative Managers' Association. There are about 500 co-ops in the state. (Courtesy of Wznick)
October 11, 2019

STANLEY, N.D. – October is National Co-op Month, highlighting the important role of cooperatives, especially in rural communities.

Co-ops are unique because they're owned and run jointly by their members. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, North Dakota has the third-highest number of farmer co-ops in the country.

Jim Wznick, president and chief executive of Pinnacle, a farm-supply co-op in western North Dakota run by the people who use their services, said independent businesses are important to the state but don't necessarily anchor communities the way co-ops do.

"I don't want to downplay their important role in the North Dakota economy either, but they can make the choice to just pack up and leave if it's not good for 'em – and we don't do that," said Wznick, who also is president of the North Dakota Cooperative Managers' Association. "We're deeply ingrained in the communities that we serve, so we're here for the long haul."

Co-ops rely on principles of open membership and democratic control of their organizations. There are about 500 co-ops in North Dakota. Wznick said co-ops play a vital role in the state's economy and span the spectrum of services.

"Everything from farm and ranch supply to grain marketing, to sugar-beet cooperatives. Of course, you've got the municipal co-ops, which include the electrical and communications co-ops," he said. "So, I would argue there's probably not a community in North Dakota that the cooperatives don't touch, in one form or another."

Co-ops have been around for more than a century and a half, and began to expand alongside farmers' unions in the early 20th century.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND