Last month the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announ-ced that the Farmers Cooper-ative Elevator Company (FCE) has earned a seat amongst the Top 100 largest and most successful agricultural cooperatives in the nation––a first in the company’s 100 year history.
“To be honest it was something I had never thought about before. This is not why we set out to do business. We set out to grow it to better serve our owners, which are our customers. It was a surprise, but it was a neat surprise,” said FCE General Manager Scott Dubbelde.
Every year the USDA compiles and analyzes the financial data of all agricultural cooperatives through which it is able to compile its celebrated Top 100 list alongside an industry overview.
Dubbelde said he that he was first tipped off about the cooperatives numerical standing when he began receiving congratulatory emails. Admittedly, they were a little befuddling at first. After all, his issue of the USDA Rural Cooperatives magazine had yet to arrive in his mailbox and, again, the Top 100 list just wasn’t something he was considering in the realm of possibilities.
And yet, there it was. Farmers Cooperative Elevator Co., Hanley Falls, Minn., sitting pretty at number 95 with 2011 revenues of $359 million. Having just celebrated its 100th anniversary in July, the timing of the revelation could not have been more appropriate for the 2,000-plus member cooperative.
“It’s kind of cool being a local co-op, owned locally by our customers, that has grown to be one of the top hundred ag co-ops in the country,” said Dubbelde. “I think of us as a small customer-orientated business, and so its just kind of neat when you think about it.”
According to the USDA, 2011 was a exceptional year for the nation’s 100 largest agricultural cooperatives as record sales revenues of $148 billion amounted to a 30 percent increase over 2010 when revenues totaled $113 billion.
Net income for the 100 top co-ops also reached new heights hitting $3.17 billion, up from $2.35 billion in 2010. The previous top 100 co-op records were $130 billion for sales and $2.42 billion for income, both marks were set in 2008.
With a total of 13 cooperatives featured in the Top 100, Minnesota is behind only Iowa’s 14 in terms of quantity, but is second to none in terms of quality. Of the states that made the cut for the top 10, not one had more than single representation with the exception of Minnesota, which boasts four––including the number one and three spots, occupied respectively by CHS Inc. ($36.93 billion in revenue) and Land O’ Lakes, Inc. ($12.92 billion), both of St. Paul.
Dubbelde expressed that it was an honor to be named in the same sentence with such co-op juggernauts. Asked how FCE came to be named amongst the prestigious company of the Top 100, the elevator GM conveyed no magic answers just the passion and commitment of the FCE management team, directors and employees to serve its members and seek out growth opportunities, though never just for growth’s sake.
Page 2 of 2 - “The more I thought about it, the more I realized how it’s kind of an honor for our owners,” said Dubbelde. “They had the foresight to grow, and lo and behold we are one of the top 100 ag co-ops in the country. Maybe we’ll never be a part of the top 100 again,” he added, “but it’s just kind of a neat thing, especially as a local business.”
Farmer Cooperative Elevator Company is a nine location co-op of Hanley Falls, Cottonwood, Echo, Ghent, Granite Falls, Minneota, Minnesota Falls, Montevideo and Taunton