Agricultural cooperatives play an important role in the development of the agriculture and rural areas, especially in developing countries and in the time of economic crises – like the current started in 2008. In order to raise global awareness of the importance of agricultural cooperatives, the United Nations declared 2012 as cooperative year, pointing to the importance of cooperatives in reducing poverty, improving food security and employment opportunities in rural areas. The paper is divided into three parts. After the introduction, in the first part of the paper is analyzed the most important characteristics of agricultural cooperatives in the country and abroad, with considerable attention to the activities in which agricultural cooperatives may have a special importance in the development of agriculture and poverty reduction in rural areas. In the second part are analyzed changes in the number of family farms based on data from the Census of Agriculture 2012, in order to identify trends in the agrarian structure of our country and highlight the interdependence between number of family farms and agricultural cooperatives. In addition, examples of good cooperative practice from the world and our country are highlighted. In the third part of the paper is pointed out to the importance of keeping complete and accurate cooperative statistics in order to properly argue their contribution to the development of rural areas.