Co-ops Set Record Sales, Income

January 8, 2013 07:20 PM

Asian market aids CHS in its No. 1 position

Farm cooperatives posted record sales and income in 2011, beating the previous record sales year of 2008 by $10 billion, according to USDA. However, the number of farm co-ops continues to decline because of mergers. On a positive note, overall membership and asset values are up.

The 100 largest ag co-ops reported revenue of $148 billion in 2011, up almost 30% from 2010. Net income for the top 100 was $3.17 billion, up from $2.35 billion in 2010.

"Our two primary businesses
are agriculture and energy,
and these are the two
biggest stars of the U.S.

CHS Inc. of St. Paul, Minn.—an energy, farm supply, grain and food co-op—was again the nation’s largest ag co-op, with $36.9 billion in revenue in 2011. That trend continued in fiscal 2012. In November, CHS reported record net income of $1.26 billion on revenues of $40.6 billion, another new record. "Our two primary businesses are agriculture and energy, and these are the two biggest stars of the U.S. economy," says Carl Casale, CHS president and CEO.

One key factor driving the company and agriculture overall is the demand boost from Asia. "We are involved in the whole cycle," Casale adds. CHS provides farmers with supplies needed to produce crops on the front end, as well as export goods on the other end.

The leading co-ops are regionally diverse, though four of the nation’s top 10 co-ops are located in Minnesota and five are dairy co-ops.

In USDA’s survey of 2011 financial results, CHS was followed by Dairy Farmers of America, Kansas City, Mo., with $12.9 billion in revenue. It traded places from 2010 with third-ranked Land O’ Lakes Inc., St. Paul, Minn., a dairy, food and farm supply co-op, with $12.8 billion in revenue in 2011. Rounding out the top 10 list in 2011 were GROWMARK Inc., Bloomington, Ill.; Ag Processing Inc., Omaha, Neb.; California Dairies, Artesia, Calif.; United Sugars Corp., Bloomington, Minn.; Northwest Dairy Association, Seattle, Wash.; and Associated Milk Producers Inc., New Ulm, Minn. (No. 7’s name was withheld upon request.)

Looking at the entire ag co-op sector, grain and oilseed sales by cooperatives climbed by almost $14 billion in 2011, while dairy product marketing increased by $8 billion. Cotton sales increased more than $1.5 billion, while livestock and sugar sales each gained more than $600 million.

Carolinas Cotton Growers Cooperative, Garner, N.C., made the largest jump, rising from 129 in 2010 to 71 on the 2011 list. Marketing of food, fiber, renewable fuels and farm supplies by cooperatives experienced 24% increases over the previous year.

Minnesota Home to Most Top 10 Co-ops

More than half of states are headquarters to co-ops, although many co-ops operate nationally if not internationally, while some others are regional cooperatives

  • Nebraska has 10 CO-OPS on USDA’s top 100 list of ag co-ops
  • Iowa has more co-ops on the top 100 list than any other state
  • Minnesota was home to four of the nation’s top 10 ag co-ops in 2011

The agricultural co-ops on USDA’s list serve a who’s who of producer enterprises—dairy and other livestock, mixed (energy, supply, food and grain), cotton, fruit and vegetable, sugar, nut and rice—and they are regionally diverse, literally coast to coast and border to border.

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