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Farmer, ag co-ops continue to post record profits

Total business volume fell for top 100 cooperatives, but net income rose 14%.

Net income for the nation's agricultural cooperatives soared by 14% last year, according to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In its annual report on national cooperative business sales, USDA reported that the country's farmer, rancher and fishery cooperatives posted record net income of $7 billion in 2015.

"The cooperative business model continues to perform strongly," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "While the model has long been one of the hallmarks of rural economies, its reach has greatly expanded to include almost every aspect of U.S. commerce. The latest data show that cooperatives are a key to building stronger and more vital communities, particularly in rural areas."

Rural Business-Cooperative Service administrator Sam Rikkers announced the top 100 ag cooperatives on Vilsack's behalf at an Interagency Working Group on Cooperative Development meeting at the U.S. Department of Commerce. The group, which is led by USDA, was established to foster cooperative development and ensure coordination between federal agencies and national and local organizations.

Again, this year's list shows that Iowa is home to more top 100 co-ops than any other state, with 15. It is followed by Minnesota with 11 and Nebraska with nine. California and Illinois each have six, while Wisconsin has five. A new co-op moved into the top 100 in 2015 in Minnesota as well as in California.

USDA indicated that total business volume fell for the top 100 cooperatives, from $177 billion in 2014 to $149 billion in 2015. However, net income rose from $4.3 billion to $4.9 billion in 2015, an increase of 14%.

CHS Inc., a fuel, grain and food cooperative based in Inver Grove Heights, Minn., remains the nation's largest cooperative, with $34.7 billion in total business volume for 2015. Dairy Farmers of America, a milk marketing cooperative based in Kansas City, Mo., came in second, with $13.9 billion in total revenue. Land O'Lakes, a dairy foods and farm supply co-op based in St. Paul, Minn., was third, with $13.1 billion in sales.

The Producers Livestock Marketing Assn. based in North Salt Lake, Utah, made the biggest gain on the list from 2014 to 2015, rising from 90th place to 58th place.

The release of the top 100 co-ops report comes as USDA celebrates National Cooperative Month throughout October. This year's theme is "Cooperatives Build." Vilsack kicked off the month-long celebration with an official proclamation.

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