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News Release
Release No. STELPRD4012593
ContactDan Campbell(202) 720-6483
Printable Version  Printable Version

Washington, DC, Sep 30, 2011 --  Agriculture Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager said today that farmer, rancher and fishery cooperatives had their second highest sales and income in 2010, trailing only the record 2008 levels. With a fourth consecutive very good sales year for many agricultural cooperatives, these producer-owned businesses were able to increase full-time employment by more than 7,000 jobs since 2009. Tonsager released the data at the start of National Cooperative Month.

“These sales and income figures are near record levels, with cooperatives showing confidence in the economy by increasing employee numbers,” said Tonsager. “Dairy prices remain strong in 2011, as do livestock, grain and oilseeds, pointing to another strong year for the ag economy.”

Farmer, rancher and fishery cooperatives remain one of the largest employers in many rural communities, with a total workforce of 184,000. The number of full-time employees increased to 129,000 (up 7,000 from 2009), while the use of part-time and seasonal employees decreased 6 percent, to 54,000.

The 2,310 agricultural cooperatives surveyed by USDA had sales of $170 billion in 2010, exceeding the prior year’s sales by almost $1 billion. Prices were significantly higher for dairy products, cotton and livestock in 2010, while prices dipped for food grains and oilseeds. Farm fuel prices were up 25 percent while the prices of most other farm supplies decreased. Among farm supplies, petroleum products had the biggest sales gain, up $1.2 billion. Crop protectants and seed also saw sales climb, while fertilizer sales declined by $1.1 billion and feed sales dropped by almost $200 million.

Dairy products led the increase in cooperative marketing, with sales gains of almost $2 billion. Livestock sales increased $500 million, while sugar sales increased $300 million. Grain and oilseed sales dropped by more than $3 billion.

Net income before taxes of $4.3 billion in 2010 was up almost 4 percent, the second highest income ever recorded for co-ops but still $500 million less than the record $4.8 billion set in 2008. The past four years have all produced record, or near record, income levels for the nation’s agricultural cooperatives.

Marketing of food, fiber, renewable fuels and farm supplies by cooperatives experienced slight increases over the previous year, according to the Cooperative Programs office of USDA Rural Development. Gross business volume of $170 billion was the second largest ever as was net income before taxes.

The value of assets owned by ag co-ops grew more than $4 billion from the previous year, hitting $65 billion in 2010. Co-op liabilities and owner equity both grew by $2 billion. Equity capital still remains low but is clearly showing an upward trend, 2 percentage points higher than the previous year. Patronage income (refunds from other cooperatives due to sales between cooperatives) fell by more than 23 percent, to $692 million, down from $900 million in 2009.

There was a slight uptick in farm numbers, with USDA counting 2.2 million farms and ranches in 2010, up 700 from 2009. The number of farmer cooperatives continues to decline. There are now 2,310 farmer, rancher and fishery cooperatives, down from 2,390 in 2009. Mergers account for most of the drop, resulting in larger cooperatives.

Producers held 2.2 million memberships in cooperatives in 2009, up 0.2 percent, or about 4,000, from 2009. The number of U.S. farms and cooperative memberships are now about equal, but this does not mean that every producer is a member of an agricultural cooperative. Previous studies have found that many farmers and ranchers are members of up to three cooperatives, so farm numbers and cooperative memberships are not strictly comparable. See Table 1.


USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice), or (202) 720-6382 (TDD).

Last Modified:06/22/2012 
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