Mountain Milk Co-op announces milk supply agreement with the Milawa Cheese Company

The Mountain Milk Co-operative have signed a milk supply agreement with the Milawa Cheese Company. The first truckload of milk will be delivered to the cheese makers on Monday, 24 January 2022.

The Milawa Cheese Company was established by the Brown family in 1988, and is still family owned to this day. They produce some of the best handmade cheeses in the country, including the Milawa Blue and the iconic King River Gold. Ceridwen Brown, CEO of Milawa Cheese Company (pictured signing agreement) said “we have been looking for an opportunity to partner with local farmers like this for over 30 years”.

Mountain Milk Co-operative said of the agreement: “For us it seems like a marriage made in heaven – two family owned and operated businesses who care about their communities, what they produce, and how they produce it. The best cheese made from the best milk. We can’t wait to get started!”

“So next time you are driving through Milawa, drop in to Milawa Cheese to taste some of their delicious, hand made cheeses. Soon to be made with Mountain Milk!”

Mountain Milk Co-op and Milawa Cheese Company with Ceridwen Brown, CEO of Milawa Cheese Company signing their agreement

Farm co-op champion elected to represent Australian sector in the Asia-Pacific region

Natalie Browning, Deputy Chair of Australia’s largest co-operative and a founding member of the BCCM – CBH Group, was today elected to the regional board of the International Co-operative Alliance Asia-Pacific.

Read the CBH Group Media Release.

Natalie is a passionate co-operative leader and farmer from the Western Australian wheat belt. In 2020 Natalie was one of eight industry mentors selected to be a Co-operative Farming Champion, helping deliver support and education on the co-operative business model to farmers, fishers and foresters across Australia.

Natalie joins co-operative colleagues from across the Asia-Pacific Board, elected today at the ICA A-P Congress in Seoul, who will serve a four-year term. Natalie is the first Australian elected to the regional board. Natalie’s presence on the board will ensure a strong Australian voice on co-operative matters across Asia-Pacific as well as the chance to open up more conversations around research, education and trade between our neighbours.

The BCCM extends our sincere congratulations to Natalie on her successful candidacy.

Watch Natalie Browning’s campaign video

Find more about Natalie Browning

What is the ICA A-P?

AgUP Grants Program

The Federal Government has announced $7.3m in grant funding for industry-led, workforce projects to address the challenges of attracting and retaining agricultural labour.

“Following our sustained advocacy campaign on this issue government has designed a program to meet the short, medium and long-term workforce needs of Australian primary producers. Importantly, the Government has responded to our key message that we need more farmer led and industry-informed solutions,” said Melina Morrison, CEO of the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM).

Applications are invited from industry-led consortia comprised of members with the knowledge and experience to make contributions to each project’s success and sustainability.

The BCCM thanked members of the Council who had provided valuable insights and information on the workforce challenges for Australian farmers, fishers and foresters to the National Agricultural Workforce Taskforce last year.

“Our submission to the Taskforce outlined industry-led workforce initiatives by BCCM agricultural co-operative members to show that the solutions were out there and could be incentivised.”

The BCCM invites farmers, fishers and foresters interested in co-operative workforce solutions to contact the Council for advice and assistance on applying to the AgUp program. Applications are open now and close on 20 January.

Read the Government media release

Read the BCCM submission to the National Agricultural Workforce Taskforce

Rabobank launches Australia-first rural community fund

Agribusiness banking specialist Rabobank has launched a fund to invest in the sustainability and vitality of rural communities in Australia.

The first of its type in Australia, the Rabo Community Fund is based on the international Rabo Foundation, the global agricultural banking cooperative’s social fund, which has operated for more than 45 years investing in farmers’ self-sufficiency in a range of countries around the world.

Funded by an annual contribution from Rabobank Australia & New Zealand, the Rabo Community Fund has launched with an initial $2 million, which is being invested in a range of initiatives to benefit rural and regional communities around Australia and New Zealand identified by the bank’s local Client Councils, groups of farming client representatives.

The Client Councils are groups of Rabobank’s farming client representatives, who work with the bank to address industry and community challenges in farming and agribusiness, which are linked to five key themes:

  1. long-term industry capacity
  2. environmental sustainability
  3. rural/urban divide
  4. rural health and
  5. adaptation/disruption.

The Rabo Community Fund will invest in initiatives under these themes and may also be used to support rural communities in the event of natural disasters. The first initiatives to be funded include:

  • Financial Skills Workshops – a practical hands-on program to build the financial capacity of the next generation of producers and farmers, which aims to reach 5000 participants by 2025.
  • Are You Bogged Mate? – a ‘down to earth’ approach to raising awareness and starting conversations around rural men’s mental health and suicide, founded by Mary O’Brien.
  • Rabo Tertiary Pathways – a scholarship program to support undergraduate students at select tertiary institutions to further their research and interest in topics critical to the ongoing success of the agribusiness sector.

Rabobank’s head of sustainability and community engagement Marc Oostdijk said the new fund demonstrated Rabobank’s commitment – as a major banker to Australia’s food and agricultural sector – to a thriving and sustainable rural sector.

“As one of the world’s largest cooperative banks, it’s in our DNA to support rural communities and we believe there’s no better way to achieve this than by giving our clients a voice as the representatives of those local communities,” he said.

“What is really unique about the Rabo Community Fund is that we are putting the power into the hands of the local Client Council members to advise us on what initiatives should be funded to address the challenges and opportunities in their communities.”

Mr Oostdijk said the fund will work in a cooperative model where Client Councils will identify and implement the initiatives being funded, while a five-person committee formed of Rabobank staff will oversee the performance and activities of the fund.

“This fund is not intended as a grants program, but is there to address the wider challenges in agriculture at a local level, such as building industry capacity, addressing labour and skills shortages and helping rural communities transition to the future of farming.”

Dairy farmer and chair of the Riverina & Northern Victorian Client Council, Monique Bryant said the major injection of funding would help to create more resilient rural communities.

“This new fund will really increase the size and scale of projects implemented by the Client Councils, which will have a significant impact on rural communities,” Ms Bryant said.

“What it does at a local level is help give people confidence that there is a future in agriculture in their local area, and if people feel good about themselves and confident about their future prospects, then they are more likely to stay in the local area, seek local employment and invest in local economies.”

Rabobank’s Client Council network operates across Australia and New Zealand. There are seven Client Councils in Australia and four in New Zealand with each consisting of between eight to 12 Rabobank farming clients.

Hydrogen collaboration on EP

Australian hydrogen infrastructure developer The Hydrogen Utility (H2U) and Eyre Peninsula Cooperative Bulk Handling have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to explore the development of a Green Ammonia and Green Hydrogen industry on the EP.

The MoU outlines the intentions of H2U and EPCBH to jointly investigate the feasibility of using locally-produced green hydrogen and green ammonia, including the EPCBH’s involvement on the production, offtake and distribution of sustainable fertiliser and fuel products on the EP.

Read the full article in Stock Journal, 23 September 2021

Mitta Valley Beef farmers reap price benefits after forming a cooperative

Mitta Valley Beef farmers reap price benefits after forming a cooperative.

In the lush green hills of the Mitta Valley, beef farmers are “ecstatic”. It’s a great time to be a cattle producer with prices at unprecedented highs.

John Scales has been a beef farmer in Victoria’s North East his whole life and he says he’s never seen anything like it.

“I never thought I would see the day that I would be getting $2,000 for weaner calves,” Mr Scales said.

“I remember getting $28 for weaner heifers once at a mountain breeders’ sale and we thought that was pretty reasonable money because there was nothing in cattle at the time.

“Now to get $2,000-plus a head is beyond our wildest dreams.”

Read the full article by Annie Brown on ABC Rural News, 22 September 2021

Agriculture looks to record-busting year

The agricultural sector is looking at another record-breaking year, with the gross value of production (GVP) forecast to reach $73 billion in 2021-22.

ABARES Executive Director Dr Jared Greenville said if the forecast in the Agricultural Commodities: September Quarter report proves to be accurate, then it will be the first time the agriculture sector has been valued at over $70 billion.

“The forecast for next year is due to a combination of factors, all tumbling neatly into place,” Dr Greenville explained.

“The value of crop production is set to rise by 7 per cent to $39.5 billion because of another near-record winter crop harvest, combined with strong global prices for grain, sugar and cotton.

“While there are risks related to mice, labour availability and continued uncertainties due to COVID-19, we are expecting national production to remain robust.

“The value of livestock production is also tipped to rise to $33.5 billion, an increase of 8 per cent.

“We’ve had a solid cropping year across the wheat-sheep belt, so we’re looking at another robust harvest.

“The international market is also tipped in our favour, as poor harvests in North America and Europe are pushing up the price of grain.

“Strong domestic production and a favourable global market are set to see exports also hit a record of close to $55 billion in 2021-22.

“The biggest contribution to growth in exports will be crops, which are set to rise by 17 per cent to $30 billion.

“A good year means optimism at the saleyards, and many of our farmers are enjoying their second good year in a row. This has translated to record prices for young cattle as farmers look to restock.

“Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. Australian farmers operate in one of the world’s most variable climates so we cannot expect the good seasons to keep coming. The same can be said for high world prices.

“That said, the last two years have placed our farmers in a good position to take on any challenges ahead.”

The Agricultural Commodities: September Quarter report can be read on the ABARES website.

Source: Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment

“Excellent” season and booming commodity prices see nation’s buoyant farmers defying broader COVID economic uncertainty

A second consecutive year of good seasonal conditions and high commodity prices is helping shield Australia’s farm sector from the broader economic uncertainty of COVID-19, with farmer sentiment surging in recent months, according to the latest quarterly Rabobank Rural Confidence Survey.

The survey, released today, reveals Australian farm sector confidence is at one of its highest levels in the survey’s history due to ongoing positive seasonal conditions and exceptionally-high commodity prices, with more than 90 per cent of Australian farmers expecting the current conditions to continue or improve further over the coming 12 months.

Rabobank Australia CEO Peter Knoblanche said conditions in Australian agriculture overall were “near perfect” with strong demand across commodities, and prices in a number of sectors at or near record highs, alongside excellent seasonal conditions, low interest rates and a lower Australian dollar.

“While there are some challenges for the farm sector due to shipping delays and labour shortages, the Australian farm sector has largely been sheltered from the broader impacts of COVID-19 restrictions and is a shining star in the Australian economy right now,” Mr Knoblanche said.

“Above-average rainfall in the late half of winter across many agricultural regions has set up the sector for another big spring, with prospects of a second year of high-yielding crops and excellent conditions for livestock.”

The latest survey, completed last month, found 43 per cent of farmers surveyed nationally expect conditions in the agricultural economy to improve over the year ahead, a jump from 35 per cent with that view last quarter.

A further 50 per cent of respondents said they expect current farm business conditions to stay the same for the coming 12 months, while just four per cent of those surveyed expect conditions to weaken.

Why co-operative education in Australia matters

University of Newcastle researchers Dr Sidsel Grimstad, Ann Apps and Elizabeth Makin have reported on their findings on the importance of tertiary education programs exploring the value of the co-operative business model.

The researchers produced two reports for the Business Council of Co-operative and Mutuals as part of the $2.5 million Australian Government funded Co-operative Farming project in 2020/2021.

They recommend that co-operative education should be included in Australia’s educational framework at all levels, however the focus of their study was on the inclusion of co-operatives in tertiary level curriculum.

The researchers analysed data obtained from student participants in two courses which were part of the University of Newcastle’s Graduate Certificate in Co-operatives Management and Organisation, delivered between 2017-2020.

It was Australia’s first postgraduate program on co-operative management and organisation and responded to the tertiary gap in education about co-operatives identified in the Senate report into co-operative, mutual and member-owned firms, released in 2016.

More than 150 postgraduate students completed one or more of the specialised co-operative courses in the duration of the program.

Dr Grimstad said the value of co-operative education was evidenced by student responses in the two reports.

“The co-operative business model is a mainstream and thriving model throughout Europe, the Americas and Asia,” Dr Grimstad said.

“The pandemic has shown that locally based co-operative businesses can be very resilient in a crisis, yet it’s still not something taught in Australian schools.”

The first report, titled Learning on the Go: Identifying barriers and opportunities for the formation and development of agricultural co-operatives in Australia, used data from students who enrolled in the courses as part of the Commonwealth Government funded Farming Together program.

The report looked at some of the key opportunities for and barriers to co-operative formation in the Australian agricultural sector.

The second report, titled Developing a pedagogy for co-operative education in Australia, analysed the student’s response to the curriculum design, which combined theory and practice, particularly around co-operative governance and participatory decision making.

Ms Apps said the co-operative model was mostly absent from business and law textbooks and that made recruiting post-graduate students particularly difficult.

“Students who completed our courses were surprised that they did not learn about co-operatives in their undergraduate courses,” Ms Apps said.

“These are our future accountants, managers and lawyers, and a lack of knowledge about co-operatives translates to a lack of expertise in a specialised field of corporate governance – the member-owned business.

“The general lack of access to information about co-operatives in the public domain is why the work the BCCM is doing is so vital.”

Melina Morrison, chief executive of the BCCM, said Australia’s future was co-operative, so it made sense for the business model to be incorporated into the country’s education systems, both at secondary and tertiary levels.

“Co-operatives and mutuals are democratic forms of enterprise owned by 8 in 10 Australians, so it’s important they are explicitly acknowledged as a means for citizens to participate in civil society and to strengthen Australia’s democratic culture,” Ms Morrison said.

Farming co-op’s soaring success

The Northern Territory’s biggest date farm has recorded a bumper harvest.

The ABC reported The Desert Fruit Company’s Tamara Date Farm has picked its biggest ever haul of dates, leading to record sales.

The farming co-operative, based in central Australia, underwent its first harvest about eight years ago.

The Tamara Plantation is located about 60km east of Alice Springs near Deep Well Station.

The co-operative formed in September 2013, after the plantation’s owner Dave Berrick began looking for interested people to help out on the farm.

Co-operating Farming, the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals’ federally funded project designed to foster the resilience and growth of existing co-operatives, provided two customised workshops to the Tamara Co-operative on co-op structure options to support the co-op’s strategic planning.

Read more about their success on the ABC.