While some agricultural operations are more challenged than others by lower commodity prices, everyone in the industry has been impacted by the past year’s volatility and uncertainty. Your financial cooperative was built for times like this. In fact, this prolonged period of compressed margins has proven more than ever the value of a mission-driven lender in agriculture.
In 2018, for example, FCSAmerica offered a one-time principal-deferral program on qualifying loans that allowed customers to retain working capital while implementing cost-adjustment solutions. We revamped our crop insurance agency to give customers more options for doing business with us, including online renewal of policies. And we introduced MagnifySM, our one-of-a-kind accounting and farm management tool designed to help producers be better, more confident managers of their businesses.
Individually, each initiative represents a significant investment in the success of our customer-owners. Collectively, they underscore the power of our mission-driven, customer-owned business model.
The benefits of that model are also evident in the more than $1.7 billion that FCSAmerica has returned to customer-owners since we began our patronage program 15 years ago. For 2018, the Board approved the largest cash-back dividend in our history, the equivalent of 90 basis points for an estimated payout of $230 million. The Board intends to keep cash-back dividends at 90 basis points for the foreseeable future, barring unforeseen events.
The Board is confident that your cooperative can maintain this level of cash-back dividend payments because of its solid financial performance. We finished 2018 with net income of $633 million, an increase of 8.7 percent. Members’ equity rose to $5.5 billion.
I am proud to lead a cooperative that is putting its strength to work for customer-owners, not only for today but also for tomorrow. We are making investments that will allow FCSAmerica to grow and change with our industry – and continue serving you through all the changes to come.
This includes finding new ways to use technology and data to serve you better and enhance the operating efficiencies that contribute to your cooperative’s financial strength. It means further developing financial tools such as Magnify to help you better understand the profitability of your operation while adding new digital channels to make it easier to do business with us. And it means continuing to invest in people who can help us deliver on our vision of being agriculture’s most valued financial partner.
The stage is set for change in our industry and your cooperative is ready for it. Thank you for choosing us as your lender. We look forward to serving you and your families in the years to come.