Farmers at the forefront of new national program
UPDATE 1.10PM: FARMERS on the Northern Rivers will be at the forefront of a national program to drive agricultural co-operatives across the country, following an announcement by Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.
In his first stint as Acting Prime Minister, Mr Joyce held a press conference outside NORCO in Lismore to announce $13.5 million would be used to establish a Farm Co-operatives and Collaboration Pilot Program based out of Southern Cross University.
The program will provide resources for local co-operatives and farmers to pool their knowledge, experience and expertise which could then be shared with other agricultural producers across the country in a bid to drive cooperatives.
Mr Joyce said the pilot program, which will run until June 30, 2018, would deliver advice and information for up to 2000 farmers and 100 farm groups nation-wide, including $3.8 million earmarked for new farmer group projects.
"What better place to re-invest in cooperatives than in the area where cooperatives are pre-eminent and that is the Northern Rivers," he said.
"This is an area in Australia which absolutely prides itself on the business plan which is cooperatives."
"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."
The program will be based at Southern Cross University in Lismore and draw on the expertise of the Northern Rivers Cooperative Alliance which includes Norco, Northern Cooeprative Meat Company, NSW Sugar Milling Cooperative, Clarence River and Ballina Fishermen's cooperatives, Summerland Credit Union and Regional Development Australia.
Page MP Kevin Hogan said the Northern Rivers was unique in the number, diversity and success of its co-operatives and therefore had a lot of offer producers in other parts of the country.
"There's no region really like ours as far as co-ops go," he said.
"What we will have here is a centre for excellence that will give them (other farmers and co-ops) finance advice, legal advice, and just the structures that they need to make that successful.
"The success of this program will be measured in two or three years' time when we see how many coops have been established and thrive because of this centre."
Mr Hogan said the program would also benefit co-ops on the Northern Rivers who would now have the resources and forum needed to share ideas about how to become more efficient and productive producers.
The Farm Co-operatives and Collaboration Pilot Program was first announced in the government's Agricultural White Paper last year.
THURSDAY 9.45AM: THE Federal Government have announced a $13.8 million Farm Co-operatives and Collaboration Pilot Program.
The program is set to empower farmers to establish cooperatives and adopt innovative business models to boost their bargaining position in the marketplace.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Barnaby Joyce, Minister for Regional Development Fiona Nash, and Page MP Kevin Hogan, made the announcement this morning.
Southern Cross University will deliver the co-operative pilot program, Mr Joyce said.
"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," he said.
"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.
"The further down you reach 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."
He said the Lismore-based SCU was perfectly positioned to deliver the program nationally because of the experience, expertise and links built up over recent years through it's partnership with the Northern Rivers Cooperatives Alliance and Regional Development Australia-Northern Rivers.
Kevin Hogan welcomed the news.
"From Woodenbong cattle breeders and Harwood sugar growers to Wooloolga blueberry farmers and from the Casino Meatworks and Norco to the Fishermen's co-ops in the Clarence River and Ballina, this is great news for all our agricultural producers," he said.
"The Northern Rivers has some of the oldest and most successful co-ops in the country, so it makes complete sense to locate the programme in our region."
"Improving the competitiveness of our farms help farmers and creates new local jobs in agriculture."