Stihl Dealer Days

Rural Missouri Magazine

The cooperative difference in Missouri

by Barry Hart

by Barry Hart

This month people all across our nation will celebrate the achievements brought on by the formation of electric cooperatives. Cooperative Month truly is worth celebrating because cooperatives have made a profound impact on the lives of their members.

This summer I attended many electric cooperative annual meetings. There’s no better place to witness the democracy that is so much a part of the cooperative movement.

At the annual meetings I witnessed first-hand the cooperative difference. Most corporations do their business in closed board rooms open only to investors wealthy enough to own the most shares. Their decisions are made with one thought in mind: increasing profits for fellow investors.

In stark contrast, the cooperative business meetings I attended were held in the open, with a formal invitation sent to each member through this publication. Managers and board members were on hand to greet the membership, inform them of important business matters and answer all of their questions.

At this year’s annual meetings reports were given that updated the members in attendance on new power plants to be built to meet growing demand for electricity. The board presidents and managers talked about efforts to improve the environment by reducing emissions at power plants and the vast amount of money spent by cooperatives to make those improvements.

Members learned about how low rainfall affected the availability of low-cost hydropower electric co-ops get from lakes in the region and how that would affect their rates. They learned that electric co-ops, like other businesses, have been impacted by the high cost of gas and diesel fuel.

Other issues I heard discussed will directly impact you in future years. Some cooperatives are raising rates, some for the first time in many, many years. The members I visited with said no one ever likes rate increases. But they realize their co-op will only increase their rates enough to ensure reliability because they are non-profit.

Some members told me they appreciated their co-op telling them the reasons why rates are on the rise — increased fuel costs, environmental improvements and the need for new power plants, to name a few — and they understood the need for the increase.

They were also pleased to hear at their annual meetings that Missouri is better positioned in regard to rates than most of the rest of the country and in the future will still have some of the lowest rates while maintaining the quality of service members expect.

What really impresses me about the annual meeting is how those representatives on the board gain their seats. The entire membership has input into the nominations process through various methods unique to each co-op.

Then the members themselves vote to select who will represent their interests on the co-op board.

I have been fortunate to have talked with some of the early pioneers of rural electrification over the years who told me they felt the cooperative business model was the best way to electrify the countryside. They knew that if the board was elected in a democratic process it would ensure accountability to the member/owners of the business.

What could be more American than that?

Hart is executive vice president of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives.

(read more about Missouri new eminent domain law)

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Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives

Rural Missouri
2722 E. McCarty Street
P.O. Box 1645 • Jefferson City, Mo. 65102
573-659-3423

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