As a close cousin of cash flow, SVA is essential to generating the funds needed to provide current-term and longer-term value to investors.
Last year, enterprise SVA hit a record $2.78 billion. This helped us fund a healthy level of capital projects, pay dividends, and make continued share repurchases.
On that very note, I'm pleased to announce that earlier today, our board of directors approved an increase of 5 cents a share, or 11 percent, in the quarterly dividend rate on Deere common stock.
This will boost the payment from 46 cents a share to 51 cents.
Backed by strong cash flow, the company has now raised the dividend on 11 occasions since 2004, increasing the rate more than four-fold.
We believe Deere's recent success positions the company to compete at a high level in a wide range of markets and market conditions.
And, it provides a firm foundation for the company to pursue its growth plans – plans moving ahead at an encouraging pace.
We've spoken before about the positive trends driving our performance. But given their importance, and the strength they've shown in such a poor general economy, it's hard to stress them too much.
Consider, for example, that as a result of a global population growing in both size and affluence, farm production will need to increase dramatically in coming years.
Our population is adding thousands of new mouths to feed every hour. Already today, the world has grown by over 80,000 people -- and by roughly 12 million in the first two months of the year.
Another phenomenon is that people in emerging markets are leaving the countryside, where farming is a way of life, and migrating to cities in a big way.
This gives rise to a more prosperous consumer-minded middle class and more demand for agricultural products. It also furthers the need for roads, bridges, and buildings – and for the productive equipment required to construct them.
All in all, experts believe agricultural output will need to double by mid-century to satisfy demand and do so with no more land, even less water, and a smaller rural workforce.
Trends like these are more than powerful.
They have the potential to be truly transformative. They are changing the way people live. And they are creating big opportunities for companies with the will and the means to capitalize on them.
Make no mistake: John Deere aims to be one of those companies.
Now, I realize this optimistic view may seem at odds with present-day economic reality. The world economy remains in a fragile state...and the short-term outlook holds a good deal of uncertainty.
Today's economic travails are indeed real and troubling.
They may even cause the opportunities we envision to take shape with less speed or intensity.
But take shape, they almost surely will – a fact that should support demand for productive farm, forestry, construction and turf-care machinery well into the future.
Forceful tailwinds are one thing; setting our sails to fully capture them is quite another.
With that in mind, in late 2010, John Deere launched an ambitious plan to help meet society's increasing needs.
The John Deere Strategy – as we've discussed in the past -- raises the bar on growth, profitability and asset efficiency. It places even more emphasis on global expansion.
More than two years into this strategic journey, it's clear we're off to a good start. We are making solid progress, especially in gaining sales and growing our international business.
Seizing attractive trends alone, however, won't allow us to reach our goals.