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If you have ever asked, “What is the biggest agricultural company in the US?", you are not alone.
I am in the food business, working for a fantastic food provider in the eCommerce space and was recently asked by a valued customer what the biggest agriculture companies are.
I had a vague idea, probably better than most, but decided to do some research and find out with more accuracy exactly who the biggest agriculture companies are, and review some of the main financial metrics.
What is the biggest agricultural company in the US?
The biggest agricultural company in the US is Cargill, with $165 billion in sales revenue in 2022. For comparison, the 2nd biggest agricultural company in the US is Archer-Daniels-Midland (ADM) who is on target for $98 billion in sales revenue in 2022.
Agricultural companies can have a relatively broad definition in the products and services they produce and sell. And Cargill is an excellent example of this, as they offer a very broad product mix within the agricultural definition.
Let’s now review some brief definitions and then compare the top 5 agricultural companies in the US, in more detail.
Dictionary.com defines agriculture as:
“the science, art, or occupation concerned with cultivating land, raising crops, and feeding, breeding, and raising livestock; farming… and the production of crops, livestock, or poultry.”
An agricultural company is an enterprise involved in the growing, extraction or processing, and distribution of farm products or related services.
Individuals who grow crops, the companies that transport them, and manufacturers of farm equipment used in the different stages of crop growing comprise agricultural companies.
Businesses dealing in growth aids like pesticides and fertilizers, food distributors, manufacturers of harvesters, and other farm machinery list among the different categories of agricultural companies.
Go here for an excellent category of food marketing strategies.
Globally, the agricultural industry is estimated to be worth over USD $2.4 trillion and employs nearly a billion people. WorldBank reports that the agriculture industry is responsible for 4% of global gross domestic product (GDP) and can account for 25% of GDP for some smaller countries.
In the United States, the US Department of Agriculture reports that agriculture, food, and related industries contributed $1.055 trillion to the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020, a 5.0-percent share.
For obvious reasons, it’s one of the world’s largest and most important industries.
So, what exactly does the agricultural industry produce?
The agricultural sector is primarily known for the production of food. Which of course, is why the industry is so important.
However, the scope of an agricultural company goes beyond consumables, as many enterprises produce raw materials for non-consumable items. An agricultural company can produce these four categories of products:
Sustenance is the primary goal of the agricultural industry. Therefore, most companies are involved in creating products for consumption, including fruits, meat, dairy, grains, and vegetables.
Some companies specialize in generating renewable energy, such as biofuel, which is environmentally friendly. As the supply of fossil fuel declines and prices continue to rise, crop-based ethanol energy is becoming a suitable alternative, with companies like corn extractors specializing in its production.
Textile companies rely on materials from plant or animal industries to create their final products.
A company can focus on building new tractors, harvesters, and other machinery necessary for preparing the land and harvesting crops or processing animal products.
Agriculture’s GDP contribution varies widely from nation to nation, and the products produced vary as well based on each country's unique natural resources available.
For example, in 2020 Costa Rica exported vegetable and food products totalling nearly 40% of all their exports. Foods including pineapples, coffee, melons, and seafood, with bananas being their biggest food export at more than $10 billion in sales.
As another example, New Zealand’s biggest agriculture exports are dairy and meat.
These are both classic examples of comparative advantage and free trade based on a nation’s natural resources.
For an excellent example of comparative advantage, please visit this helpful article:
What is Globalization in Simple Words? (+examples)
Developing countries with large populations depend significantly on agriculture as it accounts for up to a quarter of their GDP, unlike developed nations with more diversified economies.
The US is an example of this.
As we get into the list of the top 5 agricultural companies in the U.S., here are two very helpful articles:
What are the biggest food companies in the US
The second article review some common food manufacturing rations that you can use as benchmarking tools for further research:
Food manufacturing financial ratios (Hormel vs Pepsi vs Nestle)
Agriculture and related industries contributed a whopping USD 1.1 trillion to the US economy in 2020. Let’s now review the biggest agricultural companies in the US, starting with Cargill who is number one.
Based in Minnetonka, Minnesota, Cargill is the biggest agricultural company in the United States and the world, with a total sales revenue of $165 billion in the fiscal year 2022. The family-owned global corporation accounts for up to 25 percent of the USA’s grain exports and employs more than 166,000 workers globally.
Based on the most important piece of real estate Cargill owns, the above-the-fold portion of their website’s homepage, Cargill is not competing on a Customer Intimacy Customer Value Proposition. In fact, and similar to JPMorganChase’s strategy, the evidence is pointing towards a Product Leadership Customer Value Proposition based on the feature of their CEO front and center, combined with the first words on the page being: “Our Stories”, “About Cargill” and “Sustainability”.
None of these issues matter to the customer, certainly the customer doesn't really care who the CEO is, but these points matter to Cargill and they probably matter to their B2B business model customers, who want the confidence in buying the best product.
Operating in 66 countries, the company deals in crops, livestock, raw materials, food, health, financial, and industrial risk management.
Coincidentally, for a very helpful article on how you can strategically position your business similar to how Cargill does, go here:
Unique Selling Proposition vs. Value Proposition (with examples)
ADM is a multinational agribusiness company based in Chicago, Illinois. It boasts 270 plants and more than 400 procurement facilities for manufacturing animal feeds, beverages, food, and nutraceutical products.
ADM is the world leader in food processing, focusing on oilseeds and cereal grains. ADM’s annual sales revenue reached $85 billion in 2021 and ADM is on target for almost $98 billion in fiscal year 2022. This food processing and agricultural-storage and transportation giant comes second in the list of the US largest agricultural enterprises by revenue.
ADM products include corn syrup, ethanol, bioenergy, food, and high fructose corn syrup.
In fact, ADM is such a solid company that chances are that if you own any index funds or ETF's you probably own shares of ADM. I am a shareholder of ADM largely because they have been paying dividends to their shareholders for decades.
With its headquarters in Moline, Illinois, John Deere is a global agricultural company with a firm footing in other industries such as construction, forestry machinery, diesel engines, lawn care equipment, and drivetrains.
Deere’s agricultural products include tractors, cotton harvesters, balers, planters, sprayers, silage machines, and combine harvesters. In the 2022 fiscal year, John Deere Company had a sales revenue of $52 billion.
CHS is an integrated agribusiness cooperative based in Minnesota that provides food, grains, and energy resources to consumers globally and employs over 10 000 workers.
Besides agricultural products, CHS provides services such as agronomy, producer, and commercial financing solutions. It also markets the Cenex brand of energy. With an annual sales revenue of $47 billion in 2022, CHS Inc. is the fourth largest agricultural company in the United States.
As the leading fertilizer producer in the US, the Mosaic Company had a sales revenue of $18 billion in the 2022 fiscal year.
Cargill owned most of the company until 2011 when it was divested completely. The Mosaic Company is based in Tampa, Florida, and employs up to 12,600 employees.
Its primary products include potash and phosphate fertilizers.
The agricultural industry remains vital in global economies, especially among developing countries. The United States is home to numerous multinational agribusiness companies that ensure the global agricultural supply chain is uninterrupted.
Cargill remains the largest agricultural company in the US and the world, both by revenue generated and the number of employees. US-based close competitors include ADM and John Deere Company.
If you'd like to learn more about how the best food companies market their businesses, go here for a very helpful article:
Marketing lessons from the most popular food companies (Top 10 brands)