WASHINGTON — The business volume of the nation’s Top 100 agricultural cooperatives rose 16.6 percent from 2020 to 2021, reaching the third highest year on record at $171.9 billion. These co-ops also reported record net income and assets for 2021, at $6.7 billion (after taxes) and $76.0 billion, respectively. For net income, this reflected a $503 million increase, or 8.1 percent, from the previous record of $6.2 billion in 2020 (Figures 1 and 2). Total assets increased by $5.5 billion from 2021 (Figure 3).
The record net income reflects strong performance of the Top 100 co-ops whereby sales and non-operating revenue increased from 2020 levels. Sales increased by 17.5 percent while non-operating income increased by 13.5 percent in 2021.
In 2021 total gross sales (sales from marketing commodities and selling supplies) was $168 million, up $25 billion from 2020. Marketing revenues increased by $18.8 billion while supply sales increased by $6.3 billion.
Wages and depreciation expenses increased in 2021, but interest and other expenses both decreased. Wages, which includes salaries, hourly wages, all benefits and associated payroll taxes increased by 4.8 percent. All told, individual expense changes lead to a total expense increase of 1.2 percent from 2020 to 2021.
The Top 100 ag co-ops had 74.3 percent of the total gross business revenues of all ag co-ops in 2021, up from 73.4 percent in 2020 . Total business revenues are comprised of gross sales, service and other operating income, patronage from other cooperatives, and non-operating income. Net income after taxes of the Top 100 was 74.1 percent of all ag co-ops.
The $76.0 billion in total assets of the Top 100 ag co-ops in 2021 was an increase of 7.7 percent from 2020. Member equity also increased, totaling $32.5 billion, of which 62.5 percent ($20.3 billion) was allocated equity. Total liabilities of the Top 100 ag co-ops increased by 8.4 percent to $43.6 billion in 2021 (long-term liabilities dropped by $966 million, or down by 6.3 percent).
Total assets of the Top 100 were 68.5 percent of the total assets of all ag co-ops, while member equity was 64.4 percent of all co-op equity.
Profile of the Top 100
The nation’s 100 largest ag co-ops reported serving 643,846 members and employed 125,105 people in full- and part-time positions. Compared to the entire population of the nation’s ag co-ops, the largest 100 served 34.9 percent of all ag co-op members and employed 61.6 percent of the people. These co-ops also operated 4,170 locations (43.8 percent of all co-op locations) in communities across the United States. Thirty-four Top 100 ag co-ops have been operating for more than 100 years, 30 for 75 to 99 years,16 for 50 to 74 years, and 20 for less than 50 years. The average size of the board of directors of Top 100 ag co-ops is 13, five more than the average size of the board of all ag co-ops (8).
Most of the Top 100 ag co-ops (41 of them) have diverse operations, noted as mixed type ag co-ops with varying combinations of commodities marketed and supplies sold. There were 17 co-ops in the Top 100 that marketed milk and milk products (dairy), 16 were grains and oilseeds co-ops, 7 each that marketed sugar and fruits & vegetables. Four were supply co-ops, 3 were livestock, and there were 5 co-ops in the other category (commodities including rice, cotton, biofuel, and nuts).
Iowa, Minnesota, and California had most Top 100 ag co-op sales
Seventy-three of the 100 largest ag co-ops operate in more than one State. Iowa had 36 Top 100 ag co-ops operating within its borders that conducted $15.6 billion of net sales: a combination of $10.4 billion in net sales of commodities marketed and $5.2 billion in net sales of supplies. Minnesota had $13.0 billion in net sales conducted by 32 Top 100 ag co-ops, and 15 Top 100 co-ops conducted $12.1 billion in net sales in California.
When breaking out commodities marketed, California had the most marketing net sales of the Top 100 ag co-ops at $11.8 billion and Iowa followed with $10.4 billion. For supplies, the Top 100 ag co-ops had the most net sales in Iowa at $5.2 billion, followed by Minnesota with $3.4 billion and Illinois with $3.2 billion.
Net sales of the 100 largest ag co-ops totaled $146.2 billion, $112.0 billion from marketing commodities and $34.2 billion from selling supplies. These co-ops also conducted $21.8 billion in business between themselves, and when added to net sales, resulted in total gross sales of $168.0 billion for the Top 100.
CHS, Inc. tops the Top 100 ag co-op listing
CHS Inc., headquartered in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota (an energy, farm supply, grain and food co-op), is the nation’s largest agricultural co-op (in fact, the largest U.S. co-op of any kind) and has held the top position for many years. In 2021, CHS had total gross business revenue of $38.9 billion and total assets of $17.6 billion. Dairy Farmers of America, a dairy co-op headquartered in Kansas City, Kansas, is in the 2nd position in the listing with total revenue of $19.4 billion and assets of $6.8 billion. Land O’Lakes of Saint Paul, Minnesota, a diverse supply, dairy, and food co-op is ranked third with $16.0 billion in total gross revenues and $9.6 billion in assets.
Tracking the Top 100
Tracking the Top 100 co-ops’ performance, year-to-year, provides insight into trends and economic forces impacting ag co-ops and their member owners. The various financial ratios discussed may also serve as a yardstick that all co-ops can compare their own status to. In 2021, the Top 100 co-ops employed record assets and had record net income. Due largely to higher commodity and supply input prices, revenues increased significantly over 2020.
Strong performance allows co-ops to invest in additional or renewed operational assets, use funds to shore up their financial foundation, and to pay out patronage refunds and revolve member equity to members. The operations of the nation’s 100 largest agricultural cooperatives represent a wide diversity of agricultural businesses. As such, it is difficult to point to two or three reasons for the changes that occurred within the list in the past year and various reasons can influence a co-op’s rank, total business volume, revenue, expenses and income change on a year-to-year basis.
Total business revenue changes can be influenced by cooperative-sector structural changes, e.g., mergers, acquisitions and dissolutions; prices and physical volume of commodities marketed and farm inputs sold; energy-sector performance; state and national trade and farm programs; food-price fluctuations; economic peaks and valleys; weather conditions; additional or less participation in subsidiaries, etc. It is important to keep such factors in mind when assessing the rank and performance of the Top 100 U.S. agricultural co-ops.
While this analysis focused on the Top 100 ag co-ops, it should not diminish the importance of small- to mid-sized ag co-ops and their significant contributions. All co-ops operate to effectively serve members, striving to provide them with excellent services and greater economic benefits than they would otherwise experience without their direct participation in the cooperatives. Ag co-ops of all sizes and types play a critical role in the food and fiber economy of the United States and together, they all positively impact rural and urban communities, and consumers throughout the Nation.
Full 2021 Top 100 Ag Co-ops Bulletin Complete with Tables is Available
This bulletin was developed from the information contained in a more comprehensive bulletin that is available in .pdf format. The full bulletin contains 8 tables, including the listing of the individual Top 100 ag co-ops for 2021. To receive a copy of the full bulletin, please email your request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
–USDA Rural Development