Josh Kramer

There are countless examples of cooperative success in rural America. We write about them often in the pages of this magazine. They are some of my favorite stories, because they illustrate how rural people in rural places have used cooperatives to “punch above their weight.”

We, as cooperatives, didn’t arrive at success or a place of respect, however, alone. As we celebrate cooperatives this Co-op Month, it is also important we recognize our partners, friends and supporters who have helped us along the way.

Our association represents North Dakota’s electric cooperatives, which strive to improve the quality of life in rural places, while providing affordable, safe and reliable electricity. Since our organization’s inception, we’ve had the opportunity to work with effective leaders. These folks have varying ideologies and political party affiliation. Understandably, their policy positions do not always align. Yet, they maintain and model respectful decorum and dialogue, and support the electric cooperative program.

Mutual respect – the ability to listen and compromise – equates to progress for rural America.

As one of the smallest states by population, North Dakota has a strong track record of sending leaders from both parties to Congress who punch above their weight, proving tenacious, serving in positions of leadership and delivering for North Dakota.

Consider one of the most critical federal packages for rural places: the farm bill. Roughly every five years, the farm bill must be written and passed by Congress to reauthorize the U.S. Department of Agriculture to implement key programs. The farm bill connects urban and rural people with those who produce the food, fiber and energy we all consume. It provides price support, lending and crop insurance for farmers and ranchers, and resources for agricultural research and conservation. It ensures an adequate food supply and access to healthy foods and nutrition. It provides resources that improve livability in our communities. And, work on the new farm bill will begin soon.

North Dakota has been fortunate to have stalwart leaders on agricultural and appropriations congressional committees over the past several decades, who ensure the interests of North Dakotans are (and were) included in the farm bill. Sen. Quentin Burdick was one of them. (You can read about a cooperative center that bears his name on page 10.) He was the ranking member and chaired the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, a committee Sen. John Hoeven also chaired and serves on as a ranking member still today.

In this era where government and politicians are the perfect target for pundits, coffee shop banter and social platforms, and divisiveness, name-calling and manufactured controversy is new currency, we are all guilty (some more than others) of being the critic. But if we can grow to learn mutual respect, the ability to listen and the art of compromise, we may just punch above our weight, too.

Josh Kramer, editor-in-chief of North Dakota Living, is executive vice president and general manager of NDAREC. Contact him at