A CO-OPERATIVE Farming Hotline has been launched to support Australian farmers, fishers and foresters in establishing farm co-operatives.
The Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutual (BCCM) launched the Co-operative Farming Hotline this week, providing envoys, farming champions and services to assist interested groups.
The hotline service will operate Monday to Friday (9am to 5pm) on 1300 665 174.
The BCCM’s Co-operative Farming project aims to provide farmers with information and resources to support them in setting up or growing a co-operative.
Farmers, fishers and foresters that want to find out more are encouraged to call the hotline to discuss their needs and receive advice on the resources available to support them.
The BCCM said there are 230 primary producer-owned co-ops in Australia, owned by around 20,000 farmers, fishers and foresters. The top 13 producer-owned co-ops had a combined turnover of $6.6 billion, according to the National Mutual Economy Report 2019.
The council said co-operative farming is supported by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment through the Australian Government’s Starting Farm Co-operatives Program.
BCCM chief executive officer Melina Morrison said farmers across regional Australia are doing it tough at the moment, battling a drought, recent bushfire in many communities and now facing supply chain disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Co-operative enterprises are business vehicles that enable farmers to work together and support each other.
“Agricultural co-operatives are facing the same challenges as other farm businesses but by pulling together they are able to respond in innovative ways,” she said.
“Co-ops don’t have the option of going to the market for a fast capital injection so they have more robust capital contingencies and plan ahead for ‘black swan’ events.
“They can pull forward rebates to members to help with short term cashflow and they can extend patient credit terms,” Ms Morrison said.
“They will always put the member – the farmer – first.”
Ms Morrison said co-operation amongst co-operatives is a principle of the program.
“We believe one of the best ways to achieve this is farmers talking to farmers: this is the way that co-operative farmers have always shared their knowledge. “
Three project envoys and eight farming champions have been appointed to the project.
BCCM said the Co-operative Farming Project will include:
- Farm co-op advice and information hotline (launched today)
- Farm co-op mentoring program (from mid-2020)
- Financial support through educational bursaries program (from May 2020)
- Interactive website with educational assets including tools, resources and course modules (from June 2020)