Deere shares positive outlook for year ahead at annual meeting

After reaching record-breaking financial numbers last year, Deere & Co.’s chairman and CEO presented a positive outlook for 2022 at the company’s annual meeting.

Deere, Dubuque County’s largest employer, held its annual meeting virtually again this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The meeting typically is held at corporate headquarters in Moline, Ill., but shifted to a virtual format last year.

At the meeting, Deere Chairman and CEO John May called 2021 a “year of dramatic achievement” and said he believes 2022 will be similarly successful.

“We’re forecasting higher sales and earnings in the year ahead,” he said. “All in all, I’m confident our best days are in front of us.”

May said that positive outlook comes as customer confidence in Deere is high and the demand for products remains strong. Those elements helped the company post record-breaking financial figures in fiscal year 2021, with $44.02 billion in net sales and revenues and $5.96 billion in net income.

May also briefly mentioned the success of the company’s construction and forestry division, which includes John Deere Dubuque Works. The division saw a profit of $1.49 billion in fiscal year 2021, an increase of 152% compared to the previous fiscal year.

A video featuring May that outlined Deere & Co.’s goals going forward also was shared at the meeting.

A key focus of those goals was on autonomous machinery. May said Deere launched a fully autonomous tractor and tillage tool in January, and programs going forward will focus on additional automated products.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, company leaders have accelerated using remote, digital tools to connect with customers, a route they plan to continue going forward, May said.

He said the construction and forestry division is a great area to take advantage of automation opportunities.

“They have the same challenges around labor as the other production systems,” May said. “And by automating the jobs that we can do, we can help them do jobs better than they were able to do in the past.”

Last year’s financial successes came amid a five-week worker strike, which ended in November after union members at Deere ratified a six-year agreement with the company. The agreement outlines a 10% pay increase for employees in the first year of the contract, as well as increases of 5% in the contract’s third and fifth years.

May did not directly address the strike during the meeting but emphasized supporting employees in the year ahead, saying that Deere set new standards for wages within the industry.

“People are our No. 1 asset,” he said. “We wouldn’t have enjoyed the success we just enjoyed last year without their hard work.”