Washington, DC, Oct 24, 2013 -- In recognition of October as National Cooperative Month, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that U.S. farmer, rancher and fishery cooperatives set records for sales, income and assets in 2012, buoyed by strong prices for grain, farm supplies and many other agricultural commodities. Sales by agricultural and fishery co-ops of nearly $235 billion surpassed the 2011 record by $18 billion, an 8.3 percent gain. Record net (pre-tax) income of $6.1 billion was up nearly 13 percent over the $5.4 billion recorded in 2011.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Nebraska Cooperative Development Center (NCDC) plans to use a $200,000 USDA Rural Development grant to provide technical assistance to groups developing cooperatively owned businesses. The Center will offer technical assistance to businesses that are developing or are considering the development of a cooperatively-owned business. Services offered include needs assessments, planning assistance for starting a cooperative, identification of resources available, feasibility studies, business plans, market analysis and board of director training.
One of the areas of focus will be local and regional food systems through NCDC’s continuing support of Buy Fresh, Buy Local Nebraska. The organization works closely with local producers to promote and market locally grown foods. NCDC provides technical assistance to these locally grown food producers, grocers, and restaurants in promoting and marketing local foods.
"Agricultural cooperatives are a driving force in the nation’s thriving farm economy. 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 said. "Ag cooperatives are also vital to the rural economy because they support 185,000 full- and part-time jobs, and are often the major employer in many rural towns."
Vilsack has signed an October 2013 National Cooperative Month Proclamation that salutes not only agricultural and fishery co-ops, but the entire co-op sector – which includes utility, financial, food and many other types of co-ops – for helping to boost the economy and create jobs. Reading from the proclamation, Vilsack said: "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."
USDA’s annual survey of the nation’s more than 2,200 agricultural and fishery cooperatives shows that 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 percent over 2011 levels. Farm and ranch supply sales by co-ops were up by $7 billion, primarily due to rising energy prices. 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 percent 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 percent increase over the previous year.
USDA recently released its annual list of the nation’s 100 largest agricultural cooperatives. Nebraska cooperatives on that list are Ag Processing Inc. of Omaha, Producers Livestock Marketing Assn. of Omaha, Aurora Cooperative Elevator Company of Aurora, Dorchester Cooperative of Dorchester, Central Valley Ag Cooperative of O’Neill, Frenchman Valley Farmers Cooperative, Inc. of Imperial, United Farmers Cooperative of York, and Ag Valley Cooperative Non-Stock of Edison.
The 100 largest agricultural cooperatives reported revenue of $162 billion in 2012, a new record and an increase of more than 9 percent 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.
Further details about the top 100 largest agricultural cooperatives are available in the September/October 2013 issue of Rural Cooperatives magazine.
Vilsack noted that the announcement is another reminder of the importance of USDA programs for rural America. A comprehensive new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill would further expand the rural economy. He said that’s just one reason why Congress must get a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill done as soon as possible.
President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President’s leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities. USDA’s investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values.