Doug O'Brien - National Cooperative Business Association | St. Lawrence University North Country Symposium

Doug O'Brien - National Cooperative Business Association

Doug O’Brien
President & CEO
National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International (NCBA CLUSA) 

Doug O'Brien is the President & CEO of NCBA CLUSA, where he works with the cooperative community, both domestically and internationally, to deepen its impact on individuals and communities. NCBA is the primary voice for cooperatives in the United States for using the cooperative business model to empower people in their businesses and communities. Doug has been with NCBA since November 2016 and he served as the Executive Vice President of Programs from then until assuming his current role in January 2018.

Before coming to NCBA CLUSA, Doug led the work of the White House Rural Council and served in top positions at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, an organization with over 40 programs and 5000 employees that annually finances more than 30 billion dollars in community economic development. O'Brien's experience in academia includes teaching, researching and writing at the University of Arkansas Agricultural and Food Masters in Law Program and Drake University Law School.

In his role at the White House, O’Brien drove the work of the White House Rural Council, a group of cabinet members from across the federal government focused on breaking down silos so that government makes a more positive impact in rural places. O’Brien’s projects at the council included the creation of Rural Impact, an interagency effort to break the cycle of poverty in rural areas. While at USDA, O’Brien led numerous innovative initiatives to help create opportunity and improve rural quality of life. He instituted new poverty targeting mechanisms that resulted in hundreds of millions of increased dollars for persistent poverty areas and served on the leadership team for USDA’s priority initiative to support local and regional food systems. As Chair of the Rural Working Group of the Organization for Economic and Cooperative Development, O’Brien reinvigorated the rural mission of this international body that focuses on improving the policies of developed nations through research, peer learning and sharing of best practices.

Beyond his federal experience, O’Brien has served as Senior Advisor to governors with a focus on rural, food and renewable energy policy—including spearheading the creation of the $150 million Iowa Power Fund. As Assistant Director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture, he helped run the state regulatory agency of 400 people that focuses on regulatory issues and agriculture marketing.

O'Brien has worked as Counsel on the Senate Agricultural Committee, where he was responsible for cooperative, credit and livestock issues. He has worked as a career Legal Specialist at USDA and for the Organization for Competitive Markets, a group focused on increasing competition in agricultural markets. He has written numerous articles both in legal journals and online, and was the lead co-author of a book on producer marketing associations.

O’Brien was raised on a diversified farm in Dubuque County, Iowa, and holds degrees from Loras College (Dubuque, Iowa), University of Iowa Law School, and the University of Arkansas Masters in Agricultural Law Program. O’Brien lives in Takoma Park, Maryland, with his wife, Alisa, who works in policy and communications consulting. He enjoys biking, travel, spending time with his three young children, and his membership in a number of consumer co-ops.