A MAJOR barrier to farmers setting up co-operatives has been dealt a “wrecking ball” blow with the launch of a new free online legal document template.
The Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals developed ‘Co-op Builder’ for the Farm Co-operatives and Collaboration Pilot Program and it was launched at the Farming Together conference in Adelaide on Tuesday.
The “Co-op builder” is an online template for the legal documents required to set up a co-operative in Australia.
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BCCM chief executive officer Melina Morrison said Co-op Builder represented “a huge opportunity to put a wrecking ball through one of the last barriers to farmers setting up a collaborative business model for working together through a co-operative.”
“It shouldn’t be more expensive or harder to set up a co-operative than any other business model.”
Ms Morrison said co-operatives are a proven, self-help option for farmers to run sustainable, locally owned and operated farm businesses and meet their shared goals, whether that’s better farm gate prices, cheaper inputs or better quality services.
“The importance of a business model that offers farmers another way to stay on the land and keep control of their family farming businesses cannot be underestimated in this time of increasing farm ownership consolidation and competitive global markets.
“Legal costs and lack of plain English information and guidance on setting up a co-operative in Australia has been one of the biggest barriers to establishing co-operatives according to the Senate inquiry into the sector that handed down its findings last year,” she said.
“The online tool takes a “follow the bouncing ball” approach to demystify the co-op legal model and to debunk the idea that you need to spend a lot of money on legal advice to simply register a co-op business in the first place.”
The builder consists of a Constitution Builder to help prepare the rules for a commercial co-operative, and a Disclosure Statement Builder, which helps users prepare the co-op equivalent of a prospectus for potential members and investors.
New co-op manual launched
Chairman of Co-ops NSW Richard O’Leary also launched at the Farming Together conference, the second edition of the ‘Co-operatives in Australia’ manual, which he wrote with Co-ops NSW secretary Sam Byrne with the help of the Farming Together program.
Mr O’Leary said the manual contains updated details on co-operative structure, history, establishment, governance and contact points.
“It’s a great tool and will actually be progressed towards online.”
Farmers can access the Co-op Builder for free on the Farming Together website www.farmingtogether.com.au