94% of young farmers consider co-ops important for future

94% of young farmer participants consider agricultural cooperatives important for the future of Irish farming, according to a new study on the subject.

Launched by Minister of State for Food, Forestry and Horticulture, Andrew Doyle, the “Attitudes of Young Farmers to Agricultural Cooperatives” research revealed the findings of a survey completed by 655 young farmers through online and paper-based questionnaires.

The research was launched in the Farm Relief Services (FRS) Network head office in Roscrea, Co. Tipperary, earlier today, Wednesday, July 31.


According to the study, cooperatives continue to play an important role in Irish agriculture; however, the level of involvement in co-operatives among young farmers is variable.

Many young farmers trade or engage with cooperatives but are not shareholders and are not actively involved in the running of them, on boards or committees.

National Co-op Farm Relief Service, also known as FRS Network, outlined a number of concerns.

In particular, the network highlighted concerns over:
  • Transfer of shares to younger farmers and non-farmers;
  • Low level of involvement of young farmers in cooperatives;
  • Proportion of young farmers who are shareholders in cooperatives; and
  • Pool of people available in the future to serve on cooperative committees and boards.


The most important findings to emerge from the research included the fact that 94% of survey respondents considered that agricultural cooperatives were important for the ‘future of Irish farming’, while 87% considered that agricultural cooperatives were important for their ‘own future in farming’.

In addition, 55% of participants saw a benefit or possible benefit to be a shareholder in a cooperative with which they traded/engaged with.

67% of respondents indicated that they were interested in purchasing agricultural cooperative shares within the next five years.

Meanwhile, it was established that shares in agricultural cooperatives were transferred to the respondent or other family members in one quarter of farm families; while the transfer of shares in agricultural cooperatives had been discussed within the farm family of one in five respondents.

The main ways suggested for encouraging share transfer included: discounted shares; incentives to encourage transfer; education; and information.

44% were definitely or possibly interested in future membership of a dairy cooperative board and 33% were definitely or possibly interested in future membership of a cooperative livestock mart board.

One quarter believed that agricultural cooperative boards were “open and welcoming”, while two-thirds of respondents were interested or possibly interested in training on the role of cooperative boards.

Finally, the results found that the most important attribute of cooperatives identified by respondents was that they were “farmer owned or controlled”.


The findings were presented by Dr. Pat Bogue, of Broadmore Research and Consultancy, on behalf of FRS.

Guest speakers at the event included: Minister Doyle; IFA deputy president Richard Kennedy; Macra na Feirme president Thomas Duffy; and Ray Dempsey, of Central Auctions.