The government is delivering on a pledge to help farmers set up cooperatives and build their bargaining strength, potentially putting more money back in the pockets of growers and regional communities.
Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie said industry peak body the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals will receive $2.5 million and Southern Cross University $500,000 to help farmers, fisheries and foresters establish farm cooperatives and other collaborative business models to boost their negotiating power with buyers in the marketplace.
“I am determined to drive policies and programs that will deliver greater returns for our hardworking farmers and the communities that rely on them,” Minister McKenzie said.
“I strongly believe co-operatives and mutual arrangements have an essential role to play in our ambitions to grow agriculture to a $100 billion sector by 2030, as well as reshaping parts of our broader economy.
“In agriculture, co-operatives and other collaborative business arrangements can help give more control back to farmers, giving them a greater stake and say in the food supply chain, while lowering costs and improving production efficiencies.
“Thirteen of the top 100 cooperative and mutual enterprises in 2017-18 were in agribusiness and fisheries, with a combined turnover of $6.6 billion.
“The further you go down the supply chain, the better the farm gate return and the better it is for regional communities who depend on agriculture, as well as for farm workers.”
“When trade deals negotiated by our government are opening new markets and making others more accessible, co-operative arrangements can give our farmers more bargaining power when it comes to dealing with buyers at home and abroad.
“This funding, with its roots in the 2015 Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper delivered by our government, will provide financial support to farmers to establish new cooperatives, as well help fund training courses and an advisory hotline in relation to farm cooperative business models.
“It will also deliver information sessions, workshops and other events relating to farm cooperative business models, plus an accreditation framework for educational providers for recognition of farmers’ prior learning relating to farm cooperative business models.”
Melina Morrison, CEO of the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals said, “We are delighted to see the Government backing this home-grown model of co-operative enterprise.
“This funding continues the Government’s longstanding commitment to the sector and will support more Australian agricultural producers to work together and get a greater reward for their effort.
“Co-operative and mutual models of business promote sustainable growth in rural and regional communities – they are Australian businesses that share the wealth with their communities when times are good and stick with them and support their members when times are tough. There are a number of great Australian farmer co-operatives that have been supporting regional communities for many years. This support will help to spread the word and provide the knowledge and tools to grow new co-operatives and support regional Australia into the future.”