New hotline to support farmers to start co-operatives

31 March 2020

The Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutual (BCCM) is today launching the Co-operative Farming Hotline, to support Australian farmers, fishers and foresters to work together to establish and grow farm co-operatives.

The hotline service will operate Monday to Friday (9am to 5pm) on 1300 665 174.

The Co-operative Farming project provides 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.

There are 230 primary producer-owned co-ops in Australia, owned by around 20,000 farmers, fishers and foresters. The top13 producer-owned co-ops had a combined turnover of $6.6 billion (National Mutual Economy Report 2019).

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 CEO Melina Morrison noted the particular challenges facing the agriculture sector:

“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,” she said.

“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.

“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. They will always put the member – the farmer – first.”

“Co-operation amongst co-operatives is a principle of this 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 (see list at end of this release).

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)

List of project envoys and champions

Envoys: Simon Lane, Greg Wall AM, Greg Mcnamara
Champions: Brett Kelly, Stephen Thandi, Doriana Mangili, Natalie Browning, Basil Lenzo, Simon Stahl, Wally Newman, John Seccombe

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