Back home last week after a 12-week-long educational tour of the United States was 20-year-old Loughry Agricultural College student Brian Maybin.
Highlight of his visit was a week-long study of the co-operative form of marketing in America, particularly co-operation in dairying, sponsored by the Ulster Agricultural Organisation Society.
Brian, a farmer’s son from Dunamoy, near Ballyclare, told Farmweek: “I found that in the area I visited 75 to 80 per cent of dairy farmers were members of a co-operative.
“This is an amazingly high percentage of membership,” he said. “Most co-operatives in the United States are farmer-owned however, the General Manager is directly responsible to a Board of Directors made up of farmers representative of different areas, and this is undoubtedly a big factor contributing to their popularity. Farmers are, in fact, working for themselves!
He visited one co-operative which was holding a seminar to explain to farmers the benefits, financial and otherwise, to be gained by changing to the co-operative form of marketing.
A striking feature he found during his tour was that the farmer who was not a member of a co-operative was at a distinct disadvantage to his member counterpart.
“Another reason why co-operatives are so successful in America is that they are extremely well supported by the United States Department of Agriculture,” Brian told FarmWeek. “The department has, in fact, a special division devoted to giving assistance to co-operative enterprises.”
Asked how he foresees the future role of co-operative marketing in Ulster, Brian replied: “Co-operative in the United States are much larger than any here – I visited one with 90,000 members – but I feel that co-operation in marketing will become increasingly more popular in Ulster in the next few years. It is, he said, “just a matter of getting Northern Ireland farmers ‘hooked’ on the idea of agricultural co-operation.”
During his trip, Brian also spent six months working in a creamery and visited various places of agricultural interest including the agricultural department of Cornell university.