To ensure that the concerns of the agricultural sector are authentically represented to policy-makers at national, regional and local level and also to agricultural market partners, it is very important for farmers to actively work together in independent farmer organisations. Inter-farm cooperation can strengthen the market position of farmers as they sell their products and purchase inputs. It can also save them money when buying machinery and in animal and plant breeding. Inter-farm cooperation boosts the competitiveness of the individual farms along the value chain; it also promotes knowledge-sharing and the exchange of goods between urban and rural areas. Depending on the level of professionalisation of their members, farmer organisations also have the task of supplying their members with regular information on market developments, production technologies, the latest legislation and administration matters, and of providing social protection and training opportunities. Any innovations in the home, on the farm and also regarding employment outside agriculture (e. g. crafts or tourism) can be rapidly disseminated by publishing companies run by farmers’ organisations and through digital networks.
Inter-farm cooperation has a long tradition in farming organisations in Germany and Europe, where it is very widespread and takes on many forms. By comparison, in other parts of the world this concept of cooperation has historically been very slow to catch on. Farmer-organised collaboration generally takes the forms of: Cooperatives, producer rings or producer organisations, machinery rings and farmers' associations. Of similar importance are chambers of agriculture and agricultural societies.
- A properly functioning country-wide administration and monitoring system with access to the relevant information and sufficient technical and human capacities for its design, implementation and monitoring
- Clear and coherent political strategy and targets for policy-makers and public authorities
- Legal frameworks (laws on cooperatives, taxation, competition and voluntary associations) that support farmers’ self-help organisations and do not discriminate against other entrepreneurial joint ventures (level playing field)
- Open-access to all farms, regardless of size and location
- Private sector initiative
- Properly functioning external audit structures (e.g. via regional or national auditing associations)
- Regulated and legally protected payment structures
- Skilled / specialised personnel to man the respective institutions / provide the respective services
Possible Negative Effects
- Poorly functioning audit structures could result in members losing trust in their organisation
- Farmers’ influence in their cooperative could be diminished
- Supply chain dictates prices to agricultural producers
- Farmers could find it hard to market their own products directly