USDA report: CHS again tops list of 100 largest cooperatives

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 4, 2016 - CHS Inc., a fuel, grain and food cooperative based in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, remains the largest cooperative in the United States, according to a new USDA report on the nation's top 100 coops.

CHS topped USDA's list with $34.7 billion in total business volume for 2015, down $8.19 billion from its 2014 revenue mark, but still significantly larger than the next biggest cooperative.

Dairy Farmers of America, a milk marketing cooperative based in Kansas City, Missouri., came in second place, with $13.9 billion in total revenue. Land O'Lakes Inc. a dairy foods and farm supply co-op, based in Saint Paul, Minnesota, was third, with $13.1 billion in sales.

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Rounding out the top five were GROWMARK Inc., based in Bloomington, Illinois, with $8.74 billion in sales, followed by Omaha-based Ag Processing Inc. with $4.45 billion in revenue.

For the full list of the top 100, click here.

Total business volume fell for the top 100 cooperatives, from $177 billion in 2014 to $149 billion in 2015, USDA indicated in an annual report on national cooperative sales. However, net income for the top 100 rose from $4.3 billion to $4.9 billion in 2015.

"The cooperative business model continues to perform strongly," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a release. "While the model has long been one of the hallmarks of rural economies, its reach has greatly expanded to include almost every aspect of U.S. commerce. The latest data show that cooperatives are a key to building stronger and more vital communities, particularly in rural areas."

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The biggest “gainer” on the list from 2014 was Producers Livestock Marketing Association, based in North Salt Lake, Utah. It rose to 58th place, from 90th in 2014.

Again, this year's list shows that Iowa is home to more Top 100 co-ops than any other state, with 15. It is followed by Minnesota with 11 and Nebraska with nine. California and Illinois each have six, while Wisconsin has five. Minnesota and California each gained a new co-op in the Top 100 in 2015.

The release of the co-op Top 100 report comes as USDA celebrates National Cooperative Month throughout October. This year's theme is "Cooperatives Build." Vilsack kicked off the month-long celebration with an official proclamation.

Sam Rikkers, Administrator of the Rural Business-Cooperative Service, told Agri-Pulse that the cooperative model is probably even more relevant than year's past because the model works for the biggest businesses like CHS and also the “little guys” who are trying to start a business.

For example, he cited the Big Flat Market Cooperative which formed in Turner, Montana in order to keep a local grocery story in operation. Residents were without a grocery store for almost a year until the community came together to form a cooperative.

Meanwhile, CHS President Carl Casale touted the cooperative business model during a lecture at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management. CHS released data from an economic impact study that the cooperative commissioned from Ernst & Young (EY).

The consulting firm found CHS economic activity supported more than 60,700 jobs directly and indirectly, far exceeding the company's 12,100 employees. 

"That means for every job CHS creates itself, there are four more jobs supported indirectly in the community as a result of the economic activity from the cooperative system," Casale said. "This 'job multiplier' factor far surpasses that of other sectors of the economy."

Based on fiscal 2014 data, the report showed that CHS's $33.45 billion in gross global business in the U.S. translated to direct gross economic output of nearly $18.5 billion dollars locally. In addition, each $1 million of CHS economic output supported an additional $600,000 in output for other U.S. businesses. The study analyzes CHS economic data and impact for all U.S. states and every congressional district. For more details visit

This story was updated at 7 am to include comments from Rikkers and Casale.



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