'It's easy to blame the co-op for milk prices but the co-op model delivers'
Farmers may frustrated at their co-ops and blame them for the price of milk, or cattle, but they need to remember that the co-op model delivers, outgoing ICOS President Martin Keane.
He said that while it is sometimes tempting to disregard the value of owning and controlling those businesses; maybe we get a bit frustrated because the price of milk, or grain, or of cattle in the ring, as they may might not be to our liking, it's easy to lay blame on the co-op.
"But we should always remember the value of having those tough decisions made by ourselves, ordinary elected members, trying to do our best by the business, and by the members.
"If we want to see the alternative to farmer ownership and control, we just have to look at the weak position of dairy farmers in the UK; where the lack of a co-op culture, and strong farmer control has led to weakness and uncertainty."
Speaking at the ICOS agm, he said if there was ever any doubt as to the strength of the co-op model, then then the past winter should dissipate it.
He said that after an almost non-existent summer, particularly in the west, with very poor grass utilisation, or conservation, followed by a hurricane, an extraordinarily wet winter, then, when cows should have been moving out to grass, a record snow event, followed bitter cold weather, and then a disastrously wet Easter time, farmers were under huge physical and mental pressure.
"Whilst we couldn’t solve many of the problems, and farmers had to face many of the difficulties alone; nonetheless, the Co-operative movement put in a huge effort, sourcing and fodder, locally and overseas, providing discounted feed, working round the clock, in mills, and delivering feed and fodder, and ensuring that milk could be collected and processed."
However, he said that the work of co-ops is only possible with replenishing the system by investing in leadership and governance system; to ensure to continue to retain control over our businesses.