Online tool eases the path to registering new farm co-ops in Australia

The 'Co-op builder' has been designed to help farmers deal with regulatory forms and understand legal jargon

A free online tool has been launched to help Australian farmers overcome a barrier which stops them setting up a business with other producers and register their business as a co-operative.

The “Co-op builder” is an online template for the legal documents required to set up a co-operative in Australia. It has been developed by the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM), the country’s co-op apex body.

The tool was designed for the Farm Co-operatives and Collaboration Pilot Program (Farming Together), a federally funded, two-year pilot to enhance the expertise available to farmers wanting to establish agricultural co-operatives.

Related: How farm co-operatives are facing up to a volatile, globalised market

“Co-operatives are a proven, self-help option for farmers to run sustainable, locally owned and operated farm businesses and meet their shared goals, whether that’s better farm gate prices, cheaper inputs or better quality services,” said Melina Morrison, chief executive of BCCM.

Melina Morrison, chief executive of BCCM

“The importance of a business model that offers farmers another way to stay on the land and keep control of their family farming businesses cannot be underestimated in this time of increasing farm ownership consolidation and competitive global markets.”

She added: “Legal costs and lack of plain English information and guidance on setting up a co-operative in Australia has been one of the biggest barriers to establishing co-operatives according to the Senate inquiry into the sector that handed down its findings last year.

“The online tool takes a “follow the bouncing ball” approach to demystify the co-op legal model and to debunk the idea that you need to spend a lot of money on legal advice to simply register a co-op business in the first place.”

The builder consists of a Constitution Builder to help prepare the rules for a commercial co-operative, and a Disclosure Statement Builder, which helps users prepare the co-op equivalent of a prospectus for potential members and investors.

Farmers will be able to access the builder for free on the Farming Together website from today.

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