During the 1960s, there was strong support by the Kennedy Administration for cooperatives as part of land reform efforts in Latin America. Presidents Kennedy and Johnson signed early cooperative grants, which were provided to national cooperative organizations.

In 1962, the U.S Agency for International Development undertook a study of cooperative development that reviewed current projects. USAID recommended the creation of an advisory committee that included leaders of national cooperative associations, as well as those from the Catholic church and labor unions. OCDC eventually grew out of this committee. The committee focused on implementing the 1961 amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act sponsored by Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey. Humphrey's amendment was designed "to encourage the development and use of cooperatives, credit unions and savings and loan associations" worldwide.

A cooperative office was created to build on the pioneering work of the National Cooperative Business Association and the Global Office of the National Credit Union Administration. Many of these early overseas efforts were carried out by U.S. cooperative managers who were asked to share their experiences overseas, and many of the cooperatives they created still exist, particularly in Latin America.

In 1968, U.S. cooperatives decided to disband the official advisory committee in order to lobby Congress for increased support and funding. In 1982, the organization was named U.S. Overseas Cooperative Development Council and set up as a cooperative.