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How did your dairy co-op rank among top 100 U.S. cooperatives?

Progressive Dairy Editor Dave Natzke Published on 16 October 2019

October is National Co-op Month, and a good time to review how dairy cooperatives stack up among the leading cooperatives of all types in the U.S.

An annual report from the National Cooperative Bank posts revenue and asset totals for the 100 largest cooperatives. Cooperatives voluntarily submit revenue and asset information to NCB for the report, according to Barry Silver, who has been compiling the list for more than 30 years.

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Based on 2018 NCB figures, it was a mixed bag for dairy co-op revenues and a trying year for their members back on dairy farms.

The 2018 all-milk price averaged $16.26 per hundredweight (cwt), well below the 2017 average of $17.65 per cwt. The USDA estimated 2018 milk marketings at 217.6 billion pounds, a 1.4% increase from the 214.5 million pounds marketed in 2017.

Compared to a year earlier, wholesale prices for major dairy products were also lower, based on USDA estimates: Cheese was down about 10 cents, to $1.54 per pound; butter was down more than 7 cents, to about $2.26 per pound; nonfat dry milk was down more than 7 cents, to 79.5 cents per pound; and dry whey was down a dime, to 34.2 cents per pound.

Dairy in Top 100 rankings

As in 2017, 17 dairy cooperatives made the “Top 100” list for 2018 business volume (Table 1). Business volume was down for 11 dairy co-ops on the list, led by a $1.1 billion decline for Dairy Farmers of America. A few co-ops were able to boost business volume from the year before. Business volume includes the sum of total sales, service receipts, patronage income and non-operating income.

Top 100 co-ops

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Based on milk volumes handled in 2018, several other dairy co-ops not providing information to NCB could have been on or near the Top 100 list, including Southeast Milk Inc., Tillamook, Lone Star Milk Producers and St. Albans (which merged with Dairy Farmers of America in 2019).

Reports from some co-ops on the list include income from all business segments, and not just dairy. For example, Land O’Lakes listed total 2018 net sales at $14.9 billion, but dairy traditionally represents about $4 billion.

The “Top 100” list includes co-ops involved in a wide range of businesses. One-half (50) were agricultural co-ops, followed by 23 energy and communications co-ops. Finance co-ops had 11, and grocery/food distribution co-ops had eight.

CHS Inc., a fuel, grain and food cooperative based in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, remains the nation's largest U.S. cooperative, with $32.7 billion in total business volume in 2018. That was up from $31.9 billion in 2016.

NCB indicated total business volume rose about 3 percent for the Top 100 cooperatives, to $222.2 billion.

View the entire NCB Co-op 100 report. end mark

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Dave Natzke
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