Support for farmers in agricultural supply chains

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Farmer Emma Robinson is the winner of a 2015 Churchill Scholarship and RIRDC Queensland Rural Women’s Award for 2016. Farmer Emma Robinson is the winner of a 2015 Churchill Scholarship and RIRDC Queensland Rural Women’s Award for 2016. Farmer Emma Robinson is the winner of a 2015 Churchill Scholarship and RIRDC Queensland Rural Women’s Award for 2016.

Farmers will be empowered to establish co-operatives and adopt innovative business models to boost their bargaining position in the marketplace under the Coalition Government’s $13.8 million Farm Co-operatives and Collaboration Pilot Program.

For farmers like Emma Robinson, winner of a 2015 Churchill Scholarship and RIRDC Queensland Rural Women’s Award for 2016, the announcement today that Southern Cross University will deliver the co-operatives pilot program, delivering on the government’s commitment in its $4 billion Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper to promote strong but fair competition throughout the agricultural supply chain, is a positive fillip to her drive to promote family farm co-operatives.

Emma’s story appears in the May edition of Blue’s Country Magazine, which went to press last night.

Her motivation is to understand the global market environment for beef and, more specifically, beef supply chains — the very themes that underpinned her assessment that the future success of family beef enterprises lies not only in being efficient, low cost producers, but also in working collaboratively with other producers to achieve an economy of scale that enables farming families like hers to drive improvement, create new value opportunities and meet the challenges of an increasingly global and consolidated marketplace.

The announcement of the Farm Co-operatives and Collaboration program was made by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Barnaby Joyce, Minister for Regional Development Fiona Nash and Member for Page Kevin Hogan.

Joyce says this national pilot program is all about enabling farmers to come together, whether in co-operatives or less formal collaborations, and work to improve farmgate returns.

"Agricultural cooperatives allow farmers to own and control more of the food supply chain themselves — giving them greater bargaining power when it comes to negotiating with buyers of their produce," he says.

"The further you reach down the supply chain the better returns received at the farm gate — it’s that simple. It’s better for the farmer, and it’s better for local communities and the people who live and work there."

Joyce says the Lismore based Southern Cross University is perfectly positioned to deliver the cooperatives pilot program nationally because of the experience, expertise and links built up over recent years through its partnership with the Northern Rivers Cooperatives Alliance and Regional Development Australia-Northern Rivers.

"The Farm Co-operatives and Collaboration program will benefit from the tried and tested business experience of Northern Rivers Cooperatives Alliance members Norco, Northern Cooperative Meat Company, NSW Sugar Milling Cooperative, Summerland Credit Union, Clarence River Fisherman’s Cooperative and Ballina Fisherman’s Cooperative, as well as utilising the Regional Development Australia network," he says.

"The program has evolved since it was announced in the Agricultural White Paper last year as a result of consultation undertaken by Kevin Hogan with a wide range of stakeholders, including the cooperatives industry.

"Industry consultation identified the potential for improved long term benefits of developing a centre of excellence in collaborative business models that can leverage off national regional development and educational networks."


Fantastic initiative

Minister for Regional Development Fiona Nash has congratulated the Deputy Prime Minister and Kevin Hogan for developing this fantastic initiative, saying it could potentially help further develop regional economies.

"As a producer myself I understand farmers are price takers, not price makers," Nash says. "This programme aims to give farmers tools to control their own destinies and could ultimately improve farmgate returns for farmers right across Australia."

Hogan says he is pleased the Government will partner with Southern Cross University to deliver the cooperatives initiative.

"The Northern Rivers is synonymous with collaborative business structures," Hogan says. "I thank all those organisations across Australia who contributed to the consultation and had a very real part in improving the design of this pilot project.

"As a strong advocate for collaborative models that support small and family businesses, I am confident this initiative will help more businesses to succeed and grow jobs and the economies of regional areas."

Joyce says that over the coming months Southern Cross University will roll out dedicated education tools and resources, customised expert support and provide support to farmer groups interested in exploring cooperative business structures.

"The pilot program will deliver expert advice and information to up to 2,000 farmers and 100 farmer groups across the nation and will run until 30 June 2018," Joyce says.

"The program includes $3.8 million earmarked for new farmer group projects. Groups of farmers will be able to submit proposals for new collaborations to a panel of industry experts, with successful applicants receiving funding support and a dedicated case worker to get their project off the ground."

Joyce says that, in its recent inquiry into cooperative, mutual and member-owned forms, the all-party Senate Economics References Committee has called on the government to encourage the establishment of new cooperatives and undertake a program of education about the role of cooperatives. This important program commences this task in a very positive way.

"This program is a great start to meeting that task, and a key part of the Coalition Government’s $4 billion Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper which is helping strengthen Australian agriculture," he says.

AgForce Cattle President, Bim Struss, is supportive of Emma’s mission to remodel the family farm for market advantage.

"Her investigations into beef co-operatives and her RIRDC bursary will be used to promote Queensland family farm co-operatives and to help them be more efficient and competitive," he says.


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