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.
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."