Cooperatives more than doubled dry whole milk production and increased dry buttermilk by more than 80% in five years. They marketed 68% of the nation’s dry whole milk, up from 51% in 2007. Their share of dry buttermilk was 89%, increasing from 65% in 2007.
However, cheese made by cooperatives decreased by 5% from five years earlier, to 2,386 million lbs., which accounted for 22% (vs. 26% in 2007) of U.S. cheese production. American cheese made by cooperatives was down 11% from 2007, while U.S. production increased 12%, resulting in a lower cooperative share, 35% vs. 44% in 2007. During the same five years, cooperative Italian cheese marketing decreased by 1%, and cooperative share of U.S. total Italian cheese dipped two points, to 16%.
Cooperative production of dry whey products increased 10%, and their share of national production increased slightly from 42% to 43% in 2012.
Plant operations and employees
Dairy cooperatives owned and operated 184 plants, 13 of them for receiving and shipping milk only, 32 for manufacturing American cheese, 17 for making Italian cheese, 49 for packaging fluid milk products, 24 for churning butter, 35 for drying milk products and 24 for drying whey products. Many other plants made various other dairy products or dairy-related products. (A plant may perform more than one function.)
A total of 53 dairy cooperatives reported having 22,969 full-time and 804 part-time employees in 2012. These cooperatives marketed 121 billion lbs. of member milk, or 75% of cooperative milk.
Six other cooperatives had only part-time employees. Together, these bargaining cooperatives reported having 12 part-time employees. Twenty-one cooperatives reported having no employees (though some out-sourced work to other firms).
In total, these 80 cooperatives represented 61% of all dairy cooperatives and marketed 79% of cooperative milk.
Dairy co-op financial performance
Complete financial data for fiscal 2012 submitted by 89 dairy cooperatives to USDA show that:
• Total assets for fiscal 2012 were $13.9 billion ($10.90/cwt.);
• Total liabilities were $10.4 billion ($8.12/cwt);
• Total equity was $3.6 billion ($2.78/cwt.), with 84% of the equity allocated to members.
• Net margin before taxes was $285 million (22¢/cwt), a return on equity of 8%.
• Together, these 89 cooperatives (67% of dairy cooperatives) marketed 79% of total cooperative member milk volume.
Editor’s note: This article from the March/April Rural Cooperatives magazine, published by the USDA Rural Development, includes highlights from a report, “Marketing Operations of Dairy Cooperatives, 2012,” USDA Cooperative Programs Research Report 230. The full report is posted on the USDA website at: http:// www.rurdev.usda.gov/BCP_Coop_LibraryOfPubs.htm.