Empowering Co-operatives

By Brian Tessmann, QDO President

Under a new Federal Government Programme farmers will be empowered to improve their bargaining position in the market place by adopting innovative business models. The programme announced by Acting Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and Senator Fiona Nash will be delivered by the Southern Cross University. Minister Joyce said this programme was delivering on a government commitment in the $4 Billion Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper to deliver strong but fair competition throughout the Agricultural supply chain.

QDO has advocated strongly for this type of programme with the most recently example being a letter QDO wrote to Minister Joyce asking to be updated as to how farmers could access the benefits of this government commitment. QDO has worked in collaboration with a number of organisations and regional co-operatives in pushing for assistance for farmers who wish to set up innovative structures to improve their place in the market or their bargaining position. Minister Joyce said that this pilot programme was about enabling farmers to come together whether in co-operatives or less formal structures to work to improve farm gate returns.

The Minister added that the Southern Cross University was perfectly positioned to deliver this programme nationally because of their expertise and links to co-operatives in the region. The programme includes $3.8 million for new farmer group projects. Farmer groups will be able to submit proposals for collaborations and if successful, receive start-up funding and a case worker to help get projects off the ground.

In the dairy industry there are farmers that see a powerful farmer run co-op as the only way of getting market justice. For QDO this project forms just part of one line of endeavour of the many avenues to improve farm gate returns. Combined with competition law reform such as the ‘effects test’, contract fairness protection, Supermarket Code of Conduct and actual improvements at the ACCC itself, all focus on improving domestic market function and returns to farmers whilst protecting the long term interest of consumers.