An organisation could soon be formed to foster the development of more farmer co-operatives in England. A similar organisation ­ SAOS ­ has existed north of the border for 60 years and has helped some 200 co-operatives covering everything from fishing to beef farming. Following the outbreak of foot and mouth, a group of farmers and consultants in Cumbria approached the Co-operative Group, the UK's biggest farmer, to see if it would help form something similar in England. The society has floated the idea with DEFRA and has approached the National Farmers Union. An application for a grant could be filed with DEFRA before the end of the year, However, the Co-operative Group stresses the project is still at an "embryonic stage". It is keen to get such an organisation off the ground for philosophical reasons. But it insists it has no interest in running such an outfit and would instead be a member. The greatest strength of SAOS is that it provides a "tremendous network" for the agricultural sector, said Iain Macdonald, head of co-operative strategy at the society. {{NEWS }}