Report Synopsis

The role Co-ops play in encouraging viable dairy farming, in marginal areas

Owen Brodie

Profitability and a quality of life are the two key drivers that ensure the continuation of any farm business over time. You might persevere without one of these for a time, but failing to attain both leaves a farmer, his/her family and their business under too much pressure to ensure its long-term future.

Even with adequate scale, precipitation, sunshine and a market for milk, running a dairy farm business represents a real management challenge. The extra challenge of managing a dairy farm faced with a reduced margin through lack of scale, poor drainage, excessive or limited rainfall can be overwhelming, particularly in a time of increasing market and weather volatility. It takes a special breed of farmer with the requisite management skills to adopt and thrive in these marginal areas.

Historically strong dairying areas around the world have undergone immense change over the last 30 years. As part of my studies I travelled to some of these key areas to see how co-ops and farmer members have evolved in the intervening period. Travelling to the USA, Wales, Holland, England, South Africa and Japan I identify successful case studies which provide lessons on how high performing co-ops can encourage sustainable farming in marginal areas. Having engaged in the Nuffield GFP (Global Focus Programme) and CSC (Contemporary Scholars Conference) I also draw lessons in this report from travel to Brazil, Singapore, Indonesia, Israel and Washington DC.

The key objectives of this study include:

  1. Identify the role of modern co-ops in rural communities and their significance for the rural economy?
  2. Identify the specific challenges facing dairy farmers in marginal areas i.e. poor land quality, small scale, remoteness and climate.
  3. Identify the particular advantages that a co-op can bring to farmers in marginal areas, and what can be done to promote these?
  4. Suggest ways to improve farmer involvement and participation in co-ops.

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