A USDA reports shows that farmer, rancher and fishery cooperatives had $170 billion in sales in 2009, the second highest level on record, trailing only the $192 billion record set in the previous year.

"Rural cooperatives not only provide thousands of jobs, they invigorate local communities and rural farms, ranches and businesses," said Judith Canales, USDA Rural Business and Cooperatives Program Administrator. "This report shows how critically important producer-owned cooperatives are to the nation's agricultural economy."

There are an estimated 2,389 farmer co-ops that provide their member-owners with services, including crop storage, marketing and processing. Other co-ops provide members with farm supplies, agronomy services and insurance.

Farmer, rancher and fishery cooperatives remain one of the largest employers in many rural communities, with 180,000 total workers in 2009. The number of full-time employees decreased slightly, to 123,000 (down 1,800 from 2008), while the use of part-time and seasonal employees increased 7 percent, to 58,000.

Canales said lower commodity and energy prices were the main reasons for the decline in sales from 2008. Net income (before taxes) of $4.4 billion was also the second best showing ever for farmer co-ops, although down almost 9 percent from the record $4.8 billion in 2008. This breaks a string of four consecutive years when the nation's agricultural cooperatives set a record for net income.

Co-ops recorded sales increases in 2009 for farm supplies, crop protectants, seed and feed. Co-ops also saw increased marketing levels for rice, processed fruits and vegetables, sugar and tobacco. All other sales of supplies and crop/livestock marketing fell from the record levels of 2008. In the farm supplies sector, petroleum products sales declined by almost $7 billion, due to a combination of lower prices and demand.

Dairy products sales had the largest declines, down more than $9 billion from 2008, followed by declines of almost $3 billion for grain and oilseed. Cotton sales by cooperatives declined by more than $1 billion. Dairy products and grain/oilseed sales by co-ops were lower due to price declines, while cotton experienced lower prices and a large decline in production.

The value of cooperative assets fell in 2009, mainly as a result of decreased inventories and receivables due to lower prices of products marketed and sold. Liabilities fell by 19 percent while equity capital held by cooperatives increased almost 4 percent, to nearly $24 billion. Equity capital still remains low but is six points higher than in 2008 and now represents 39 percent of all co-op assets. Patronage income (refunds from other cooperatives due to sales between cooperatives) grew almost five percent, to $904 million, up from $864 million in 2008.

The report is available at: http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/Reports/2009StatisticalReport.pdf.