Farm Co-ops Fuel the Heartland


The nation's co–ops provide the feed, fertilizer, and fuel to grow crops and then help farmers turn crops into cash. It's been a record year, as ten Nebraska cooperatives rank among the nation's top 100.

"It takes rain to make the grain," Bill Schuster said.

Farmers made it rain when the weather wouldn't cooperate this year. As a result, guys like Schuster harvested a good crop that made good money at the elevator.

And since Bill owns the elevator he benefits a second time.

Like 60,000 Nebraska farmers, Schuster is a member of a cooperative. It's proven to be a good way of doing business for more than a century and no year has been better than this one.

USDA Undersecretary for Rural Affairs Dallas Tonsager said, "Cooperatives represent a strong business model and greatly contribute to both national and local economy. They generate jobs in communities and keep profits local and pay local taxes to help support services."

Bill Schuster is head of the Aurora Co-op board. He said, "You may be the biggest employer in town, pay a lot of real estate taxes, large payroll, a lot of people work there."

Co–ops include household names like Sunkist oranges and Blue Diamond almonds. But ranking right up there are the guys who run local elevators like CPI in Hastings and Aurora Cooperative.

In fact, ten of the top hundred co–ops are based in Nebraska. That's more than any state, except Minnesota and Iowa.

Top officials in the USDA say they make the wheels move in small towns where there aren't many private businesses.

Tonsager said, "What we've seen the last several years is a very profound business skill set that co–ops have learned and follow that really bring true value – not only are farmers getting served, they're participating in a business model where earnings return to them as well."

When co–ops make money, farmers make money. Tuesday we'll visit Aurora to learn how farmers are getting cash back and Wednesday we'll talk with the head of CPI to learn their vision for the future.

Omaha giant AGP ranks number five. Other Nebraska cooperatives on the list include:

#NameCityTypeRevenue in millions5AGPOmahaSupply4,37225Producers Livestock Marketing AssociationOmahaLivestock1,15333Aurora CooperativeAuroraGrain, Supply89244Farmers CooperativeDorchesterGrain, Supply71646Cooperative Producers Inc.HastingsGrain, Supply69547Central Valley Ag CooperativeO'NeillGrain, Supply67250United Farmers CooperativeYorkGrain63372Frenchman Valley Farmers CooperativeImperialGrain, Supply43281Frontier Cooperative Inc.BrainardGrain, Supply38991Ag Valley Cooperative EdisonGrain369