Farmer cooperatives post record-breaking year

Net income increased 16.5% despite total number of ag cooperatives dropping nearly 4%.

The nation's farmer, rancher and fishery cooperatives posted record income and revenue in 2014, setting new records for the fourth year in a row.

Cooperatives earned $6.5 billion in net income and generated $246.7 billion in total revenue last year, according to a preview of a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that will be released later this month. Net income increased 16.5% while revenue rose 0.4% from 2013.

"The nation's co-ops are essential to the U.S. economy and to rural America," said agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack. "The income they generate is reinvested or returned to members who spend it in their local communities."

Ag co-op employment increased 0.4% to 191,000 people in 2014. The number of full-time co-op employees dipped slightly, 0.4%, while the number of part-time employees increased by 2%.

The total number of ag cooperatives declined from 2,186 in 2013 to 2,106 last year, a drop of nearly 4%. Despite the decline, co-op memberships grew by 1%, to just under 2 million. Many farmers and ranchers are members of more than one cooperative. In addition to providing supplies and marketing services to farmers and ranchers, the nation's co-ops provide telecommunications, energy, financial and other important services.

Vilsack recently signed a Cooperative Month proclamation that salutes the nation's cooperative business sector, which includes about 30,000 co-ops.

Top 100 ag co-ops

Vilsack also previewed findings from USDA's annual rankings of the nation's Top 100 Ag Co-ops. Among other things, the rankings show that 15 of the Top 100 agricultural co-ops are headquartered in Iowa, the most of any state.

Minnesota is home to the second most Top 100 agricultural co-ops, with 12 headquartered there. Nebraska is next with nine, followed by Illinois with six and California and Wisconsin, both with five. Indiana, Missouri and Ohio each have four Top 100 co-ops, while Kansas is home to three.

For co-op revenue, Minnesota ranks first, with $67.6 billion. Missouri is second at $21.4 billion, and Illinois is third at $14.1 billion.

According to the rankings, CHS Inc., a fuel, supply, grain and food cooperative based in Inver Grove Heights, Minn., is the nation's largest cooperative. It posted $43 billion in revenue in 2014.

Rounding out the top three ag co-ops are Kansas City-based Dairy Farmers of America, with $18 billion in total revenue, and Land O'Lakes, headquartered in, St. Paul, Minn., with $15 billion in revenue.

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