WILLMAR -- A recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture highlights the significant contributions that farmer-owned cooperatives provide to the local and regional economies of rural America. An especially noteworthy finding in the report was that two of the three top agricultural cooperatives in the United States in 2011 are Minnesota-based.
According to the report, farmer-owned cooperatives posted record sales and income in 2011, surpassing the previous record sales year of 2008 by $10 billion and breaking the old income record by $500 million.
Net income, before taxes, for all agricultural cooperatives was a record $5.4 billion, eclipsing the previous high of $4.9 billion set in 2008. Net income was also up more than 25 percent, or $1 billion, from 2010.
Double-digit increases in the price for dairy products, cotton, livestock, grains and oilseeds occurred in 2011. However, farm production expenses also increased by double digits with feed, fertilizer and fuel prices leading the upward trend.
Farmer-owned cooperatives also remain one of the largest employers in many rural communities with a workforce of 184,000, up slightly from 2010. While full-time jobs at cooperatives increased by 1,800, the number of part-time and seasonal employees declined by 1,600.
In its annual list of the nation's 100 largest agricultural cooperatives, CHS Inc., of St. Paul, was once again the largest cooperative in 2011 with $36.9 billion in revenue.
The second largest cooperative was Dairy Farmers of America, Kansas City, Mo., with $12.9 billion in revenue. It traded places from 2010 with Land O' Lakes Inc., of St. Paul, a dairy, food and farm supply cooperative with $12.8 billion in revenue in 2011.
Iowa is home to 14 of the top 100 agricultural cooperatives, the most of any state. It was followed by Minnesota with 13; Nebraska - 10; California - 6; and Wisconsin - 5.
According to the latest annual report, the number of cooperatives continues to decline. There were 2,285 agricultural cooperatives in 2011, down from 2,314 in 2010, with mergers accounting for most of the decline.
Producers held 2.3 million memberships in cooperatives in 2011, up 2 percent from 2010. Meanwhile, USDA estimated that there were 2.2 million farms in the United States in 2011, down about 10,000 from 2010.
That would imply that the number of farms and cooperative memberships were about equal in 2011. However, that does not mean that every producer is a member of an agricultural cooperative. Previous studies have found that many farmers are members of up to three cooperatives.
USDA scientists collaborate with others to map barley genome
Scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in collaboration with lead researchers from the University of California, Riverside, the University of Minnesota and scientists from 19 other organizations around the world have made a major advance in the mapping of the barley genome.
The advance will give researchers the tools needed to produce higher yields, improve pest and disease resistance, and enhance the nutritional value of barley, one of the world's most important cereal crops.
Nearly twice as large as the human or maize genomes, the barley genome was a challenge to sequence due to its complexity and its large proportion of repetitive regions, which are difficult to piece together into a true linear form.
The sequencing of the barley genome, and other crops such as wheat, rye and corn, will allow breeders and scientists to effectively address the challenges of feeding the world's growing population, living in an environment that increasingly challenges farmers with extreme weather events.
Acreage reporting deadline for forage, fall-seeded crops is Nov. 15
In the interest of having more consistency in the acreage reporting deadlines of USDA's Risk Management Agency and the Farm Service Agency, some changes were recently made that producers with fall-seeded or forage crops should be aware of.
A reporting deadline of Nov. 15 is now in effect for any producers that planted a fall-seeded crop for harvest in 2013, or who have forage crops that will be covered by federal crop insurance in 2013.
For more information regarding crop acreage reporting deadlines, producers should contact their local Farm Service Agency office, or visit with their crop insurance agent.
No milk program payments for Sept. production
Due to lower feeding costs and an increase in the Boston Class I milk price, dairy producers will not qualify for payments under the USDA's Milk Income Loss Contract program for milk produced and sold during the month of September.
According to the provisions of the 2008 farm bill, the $16.94 trigger price for the milk program is adjusted upward whenever the monthly national average cost for a 16 percent protein feed ration is greater than $7.36 per hundredweight.
According to USDA, feeding costs for the month of September warranted an upward adjustment of the $16.94 trigger price to $19.25. However, the September Boston Class I milk price of $20.84 was higher than the September adjusted trigger price. Therefore, no payment was earned.
USDA Service Centers closed Monday for holiday
Because Veterans Day falls on a Sunday, the official federal holiday will be observed on Nov. 12. Therefore, all USDA Service Centers will be closed for business Monday in observance of the federal holiday.
Wes Nelson is executive director of the USDA Farm Service Agency in Kandiyohi County.