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Agriculture Strategy Champions Call for More Collaboration

The Scottish Government has published a discussion document produced by the four ‘Agricultural Champions’ who were appointed by Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing to advise on future agriculture strategy. Included in the six strategic themes that are identified, is a clear and unequivocal call for more collaboration amongst farmers and within their supply chains.

The Champions state: “We have discussed collaboration at length with our contributors and are struck by how many benefits it can bring: economies of scale in purchasing and selling; sharing of specialist machinery and staff; market information; risk management; logistics; branding and marketing,” and they conclude: “We see great potential in encouraging greater use of collaboration and building on the excellent, if sometimes unrecognised, work of SAOS.”

In discussing the strategic theme concerned with addressing “opportunities for careers in the rural sector”, the Champions make special mention of Ringlink’s internship scheme, currently targeted at schools in the co-op’s trading area. The report notes that: “At present there is no pre-apprenticeship option for rural skills, but we believe this principle would be beneficial and should be worked up drawing on the lessons of the well-established internship programme run by Ringlink.”

In response to the document, James Graham, SAOS Chief Executive said: “I enjoyed participating in one of the Champions’ working groups, as did Jim Booth, and naturally I’m very pleased that in their discussion paper they have taken full account of all the evidence that I, and several others, contributed. We already have some excellent exemplar farmer co-ops and collaborative supply chains in Scotland, and Ringlink stands out for their work in reaching out to school leavers, but there’s absolutely no doubt that there is great potential for more, right across Scotland.”

James continued: “It is also valuable that the Champions’ conclusions align closely with Ambition 2030, the strategy adopted by the Scotland Food & Drink Partnership for industry growth, launched earlier in 2017.  Facilitating more supply chain collaboration is one of its ‘Pillars of Growth’ and the SAOS team is already hard at work with co-ops and supply chains on some ambitious initiatives.”

James concludes: “Whilst we much appreciate the Champions’ endorsement of SAOS’ development activities, our work is, of course, enabled by a range of partners and not least by our member co-ops, the Scottish Government, and Scotland Food & Drink.”

The four Agriculture Champions are Archie Gibson, Henry Graham, John Kinnaird and Marion MacCormick.  The document ‘An Interim Discussion Document from the Government’s Agriculture Champions setting out the six strategic themes can be accessed on line at The Scottish Government invites comments on the conclusions by 29 December 2017 to be sent to


SAOS Conference 2018 is now open for booking

SAOS January Conference Will Explore ‘Opportunities for Value Through Collaboration’

The SAOS conference (Thursday 25th January 2018) will hear  from two professors with deep expertise on this topic:

  • Professor Daniel Côté, University of Montreal, will address ‘Co-creating Value Through Co-operation Strategy. Daniel participated in our 2005 conference and influenced the emphasis of our co-op development work.
  • Professor Jan Godsell,  of the University of Warwick will speak on ‘Designing Fairer Collaborative Supply Chains’, and will give her insights into successful supply chain design and fair value allocation.

As usual our day begins with two morning Knowledge Transfer forums, the 2018 topics are ‘Improving Co-op Communications’ and ‘Increasing Board Diversity’

We were oversubscribed for the conference last year so please book early to avoid disappointment! Further details and a booking form are available here:

This year, in addition to our ‘group booking’ discount rate (for four or more members/staff of the same co-op), we are also offering a limited number of free ‘Next Generation’ places for first time attendees, who are under 40 years of age, please contact for details.

SAOS Autumn Update now available

Our latest newsletter is ‘hot off the press’, find out the latest news from SAOS and our member co-ops here: 

If you’ve missed any of our earlier issues, you can catch up at SAOS Update Quarterly Newsletters

New report: director remuneration in agricultural co-operatives

017cf519dc37a9b5eadec2243d6044f5b5b2b6e5e0A new survey of how agricultural co-ops reward their directors has highlighted a set of important recommendations around good governance for farmer-owned businesses.

The analysis was conducted by SAOS and Co-operatives UK to establish current practice around director fees and expenses and help with decision-making around the remuneration of non-executive directors in agricultural co-ops.

Director recruitment is critical to a business’s success and a remuneration package can play an important role in attracting directors with the right mix of skills and experience.


Some key findings from the report:

  • Director remuneration and the amount of time spent by directors on their roles varies widely, even among those with similar levels of turnover and employee numbers
  • Boards need to make sure that they have a formal process in place that monitors director remuneration to ensure it reflects the business’s needs and its ability to recruit directors of an appropriate quality
  • With only 12% of the co-ops surveyed having a formal process to review board performance, more agricultural co-operatives need to build regular director and board performance reviews into their governance planning
  • As only 37% of those co-ops surveyed have a director development programme in place and only 36% are confident that the co-op is recruiting enough directors of the necessary calibre, more co-ops need to implement processes around recruitment and remuneration
  • Many co-ops need to establish a strategy to increase gender diversity on their boards, with only 13% of respondents having women on boards.

Jim Booth, SAOS’ Head of Co-op Development, commented: “Whether through performance reviews, board development, or ensuring there are appropriate levels of diversity and the right mix of skills, there is a clear need for more co-operatives to put systematic processes in place to ensure boards are best placed to drive the business forward.”

“The quality and calibre of directors is arguably one of the most important factors in ensuring the future success of a co-op.  Farmer directors don’t expect to make lots of money while serving on their co-op board, but equally they should not subsidise the rest of the membership. The remuneration level for directors needs to be appropriate to attract and retain the right calibre of people.”

Richard Self, Agricultural Manager at Co-operatives UK, added: “The board is the engine powering your co-operative. It is vital to regularly service your board just as you would your car. What the figures in this survey show is that, alongside some best practice, many agricultural co-operatives are not taking the time to time to ‘tune’ their boards.

The full report is available to members of SAOS and Co-operatives UK that participated in the survey.

For more information, contact