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VIEWPOINT Co-op Nation stands for members BY A N T H O N Y J. A H E R N This spring trustees, managers and employees of electric cooperatives from across the nation gathered again in Washington, D.C., to participate in a unique display of solidarity and outreach. The 40th annual National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) Legislative Conference was held in the shadow of the Capitol dome. Followed by two days of visits to U.S. House and Senate offices to inform members of Congress and their staffers of concerns about pending legislation and regulation, the conference displayed not only the strength of the 42-million-strong Co-op Nation, but also a renewed commitment to the principles that have made electric co-ops a grassroots political force to be reckoned with whenever threats arise to reliable and affordable electricity. This year the issues were different than in 1973, when electric co-ops rallied to actually save rural electrification itself. Back then, President Richard Nixon’s administration killed the low-interest loan program on which electric cooperatives depended — and had since the mid-1930s. This action precipitated a political fight the likes of which had not been seen in a long time and that cemented the reputation of electric co-ops for bulldog-like tenacity when protecting their members. Long story short, Congress restored the rural electrification loan program, but the nation’s co-ops realized what a close call it had been. The lesson was important and would not be forgotten. So when President Bill Clinton tried to sell off federal hydroelectric dams that provided low-cost electricity to many co-ops, he had to back away when NRECA entered the political fight, representing the interests of millions of those who could have been negatively affected. “When the nation’s rural electric cooperatives take up a cause, they seldom lose, and they find a lot of allies in both political parties,” wrote the Des Moines Register as recently as 2007, when the impending issue was carbon dioxide cap and trade and its effects on electricity rates. Under a brand-new NRECA chief executive officer, Jo Ann Emerson, the Co-op Nation (it’s what we call ourselves these days) is rededicating itself. We’ve always had a strong voice, but today we benefit from the increasing involvement of co- op members themselves. In Ohio, more than 5,000 co-op members and employees have joined the Action Committee for Rural Electrification® (ACRE) and Cooperative Owners for Political Action. By encouraging grassroots support, we have the potential to become one of the largest consumer-interest organizations in the U.S. This is why it is still important to “show the flag” and remind members of Congress — and special interests that might not have the welfare of co-op members at heart — who we are and what we stand for. 2 COUNTRY LIVING • JUNE 2013 Volume 55, No. 9 June 2013 Contact us: Anthony Ahern Steve Oden Rich Warren John Howley Chris Hall Bernice Mattison Nikki Heath Adam Specht Margie Wuebker Chip Gross President & CEO Dir. of Comm. Managing Editor Comm. Manager Art & Prod. Manager Publications Coord. Graphic Artist Comm. Specialist Food Editor Outdoors Editor COUNTRY LIVING (ISSN 0747-0592) is the official publication of Ohio Rural Electric Co- operatives, Inc. With a paid circulation of 294,786, it is the monthly communication link between the rural elec tric cooperatives in Ohio and West Virginia and their members. Subscription price: $4.30 to $6.50 per year to co-op members; $12 per year to nonmem- bers. Nothing in this publication may be re- produced in any manner without specific written permission from Ohio Rural Electric Cooperatives, Inc. All rights reserved. Alliance for Audited Media Member National advertising representatives: NATIONAL COUNTRY MARKET, 800-NCM-1181 State advertising representatives: Sandy Woolard 614-403-1653 Tim Dickes 614-855-5226 The fact that a product is advertised in Country Living should not be taken as an endorsement. If you find an ad- vertisement misleading or a product unsatisfactory, please notify us or the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, Consumer Protection Section, 30 E. Broad St., Columbus, OH 43215, or call 1-800-282-0515. Cooperative members — Please report any change of address to your local electric cooperative. Periodicals postage paid at Columbus, OH and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to editorial and advertising offices at: 6677 Busch Boulevard Columbus, OH 43229-1101 Telephone — 614-846-5757 Serving on the Ohio Rural Electric Cooperatives, Inc., Board of Trustees are George Brake, chairman; Dennis W. Schindler, vice chairman; Jack Schmidt, secretary/treasurer; Stephen Huff, Paul Berridge, Thomas McQuiston, Robert McCort, Donald McCracken, Jack L. Kitchel, Daniel McNaull, Robert E. Wise, Shirley J. Stutz, David Corbin, Barry Jolliff, Warren Taylor, James R. McConnell, Gene McCluer, Mitch Headley, John Saxton, Edward P. Sanders, Harold E. Cooper, Larry Weirich, Jeff Wilson and David P. Miller. Anthony J. Ahern, president; Kurt Helfrich, counsel.