The U.S. farmer, rancher and fishery cooperatives posted strong sales and earnings in 2011, hitting the highest levels in record, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported on Tuesday. Sales for all American agricultural cooperatives in 2011 totaled 213 billion U.S. dollars, exceeding 2010 sales by more than 40 billion dollars, the department said in a statement. Last year, the U.S. farm cooperatives also posted net income before taxes of a record 5.4 billion dollars, eclipsing the previous high of 4.9 billion dollars set in 2008, and also up over 5 percent from 2010, according to the statement. \"These new cooperative sales and income records for 2011 underscore the strength and productivity of the nation\'s farmer- and rancher-owned cooperatives, and the vital role they play in the nation\'s economy,\" said Dallas Tonsager, under secretary of USDA. With respect to prices of farm products, dairy products, cotton, livestock and grains and oilseeds all saw double-digit increases in prices. Farm production costs also increased by double-digits in 2011, with feed, fertilizer and fuel prices leading the upward trend. Meanwhile, the USDA released the annual list of the nation\'s 100 largest agricultural cooperatives, which reported the combined revenue of 148 billion dollars in 2011. Iowa is home to 14 of the top 100 farm cooperatives, followed by Minnesota with 13, and Nebraska with 10. In addition, the value of cooperative assets in 2011 gained by about 13 billion dollars, with liabilities rising by 11 billion dollars. The number of farm cooperatives declined to 2,285 from 2, 314 in 2010, with holding 184,000 workers. Merges account for most of the drop, resulting in larger cooperatives, said the department. U.S. agriculture sector is a bright spot in America\'s economy and a driving force behind export growth, with achieving farm exports of over 137 billion dollars annually. Farm cooperatives, gathering various resources from production to financing, play a vital role in American farm economy.