U.S. farmer, rancher and fishery cooperatives in 2012 set records for sales income and assets in 2012, according to an announcement from USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack Wednesday.
Record sales of nearly $235 billion by ag co-ops in 2012, buoyed by strong prices for grain, farm supplies and many other agricultural commodities, surpassed the 2011 record by $18 billion. Pre-tax income of $6.1 billion was up nearly 13% over the $5.4 billion recorded in 2011, USDA noted.
Vilsack said co-ops also serve as a "driving force" in the agricultural economy because they support 185,000 full- and part-time jobs, and are often the major employer in many rural towns.
"Because they are farmer-owned and operated businesses, the sales dollars and income generated are much more likely to be returned and spent in rural areas and communities," Vilsack explained.
USDA celebrates record sales, income and assets for cooperatives during National Co-op Month
According to a USDA survey of more than 2,200 ag co-ops, grain and oilseed sales by co-ops increased more than $7 billion in 2012. Taken together, bean and pea, fruit and vegetable, nut, poultry and sugar sales by co-ops increased at least 3% over 2011 levels.
Farm and ranch supply sales by co-ops were up by $7 billion, primarily due to rising energy prices, USDA said. Fertilizer, feed and petroleum sales by co-ops each increased by at least $1 billion.
Net assets owned by agricultural co-ops – which range from local grain elevators and farm supply stores to major food and beverage processing plants – also showed a dramatic increase in 2012, rising to $82.9 billion, up 4.4% from $79.4 billion in 2011. Owner equity gained $1.8 billion.
Equity capital remains low, but is clearly showing an upward trend, with a 6.5% increase over the previous year, USDA reports.
Nation's top co-ops
USDA recently released its list of top 100 ag co-ops, showing that the 100 largest agricultural cooperatives reported revenue of $162 billion in 2012, a new record and an increase of more than 9% over 2011, when revenue was $148 billion.
Net income for the 100 top cooperatives also set a new record in 2012, reaching $3.5 billion, up from the previous record of $3.1 billion in 2011.
Farmway Co-Op, Inc., Beloit, Kan., took the biggest leap in size this year, jumping from 114th in 2011 to 62nd in 2012. The next biggest "gainer" was West Central Cooperative, in Ralston, Iowa, a co-op that handles grain and farm supplies, which climbed from 69th to 41st place in 2012.
As a sector, the biggest upward jumps on the Top 100 list were made by grain and grain/farm supply co-ops. Eight of the 10 biggest co-op gainers on the list in 2012 were grain or grain/farm supply co-ops.
Both sales results and size rankings come as co-ops nationwide celebrate National Cooperative Month, which salutes not only ag and fishery co-ops, but also utility, financial, food and other co-ops.
According to the month's official proclamation, "cooperative businesses, arising from a sense of community and common cause, are the ultimate economic self-help tool, helping member-owners market and process their crops and other products, obtain needed services and acquire high-quality, affordable supplies."