Farmer co-ops – a new programme starting soon

The first co-operatives formed around food and it is a source of new co-operation today. Later this year, Co-operatives UK will be starting a new programme of support for agricultural co-ops.
There are around 222,000 farm holdings in the UK. As a nation, we eat around half of what we produce, and if crisis hit, we could produce much, but not all of what we would need to get by.
While three quarters of agricultural land is farmed by the larger operations, the vast majority of farm holdings are small or relatively modest in scale. The south of Great Britain tends to have fertile soils, amenable climate and topography, while the north has something of the opposite. Scotland may be beautiful, but 85% of it is, according to European Union classifications, ‘less favoured area’. The south is therefore majority crops, while the north is majority livestock. Agriculture has always been devolved.
Agricultural co-operatives are farmer-controlled businesses, which offer the opportunity for members to benefit from economies of scale, to share the cost of overheads and to improve their ability to negotiate and compete along the value chain. Agricultural co-ops can play an important role in purchasing and marketing, providing their members with specialist services to get the most from relationships with suppliers and customers.
The business areas typically covered by agricultural co-operatives in the UK include: milk marketing and processing; crop marketing; potato co-operatives; horticultural produce; livestock marketing; crop storage and primary processing; input supply; and machinery rings.
A strength of the model is that agricultural co-operatives can benefit from mutual taxation status. Here the co-op acts as an agent on behalf of its members. The co-operative can accumulate reserves and hold them without incurring the corporation tax liability that would be payable if it was a private company, or if its members were holding the reserves as individual businesses.
As with co-ops more widely, the key to long-term success is business strategy and leadership allied to high quality governance and member engagement.
As a first step, we are recruiting someone to work with our farmer coop members to develop our work to back Britain’s farmers. If you know of anyone with a passion for food and co-operation, do pass the word!

One thought on “Farmer co-ops – a new programme starting soon

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s