Co-operation is the key to a successful rural economy

The economic strength of the agricultural co-operative movement in the Borders was highlighted yesterday with representatives from nine organisations coming together at Carfraemill.

David Mitchell the chairman of the umbrella body for farm co-operatives, SAOS, pointed out that the nine co-ops in the area had a combined membership of 3,296.

"That shows how important these co-ops are in supporting our family farms and the enormous contribution they make to the food and drink economy, as well as being important local employers, investing for the long-term future of Borders agriculture," he said.

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He added that co-ops helped "scale up" businesses through working together. This was especially so in using buying power to best effect, and in cost reduction through efficient use of machinery and labour.

"And if you've attended a farmers' market, the chances are it was a farmer producers' co-operative - about half of farmers' markets in Scotland formed in this way. And the Borders Local Food Network do a fantastic job locally nurturing food producers and extending their market opportunities."

The event was attended by attended by Michael Moore, the Secretary of State for Scotland, who is also one of the local MPs who commented farmers were stronger and better off when they worked together. "Farming is an important industry in the Borders and I want to encourage farmers to join co-operatives to tap into the vital resources and support which they provide."

The Borders event was the start of a Scotland wide campaign by SAOS to highlight the benefits of farmers working together in a co-operative. Nearly 2 billion and more than 1,000 jobs are directly generated by agricultural co-operatives in membership of SAOS and, just as important, they help to safeguard and sustain family farmers and rural communities.