The dreadful events in America on September 11 have focused the minds of those involved in UK food production. Thus the importance of maintaining a strong domestic base in the new, uncertain international environment is taking on greater significance. And that explains why producer co-operatives have resurfaced as a way of adding value to our agri-food sector. It was sown during the Euro farmers' congress in Belfast and it was transplanted at the Labour Party conference in Brighton this week. But the latest crop of theories that co-ops could be a panacea for British farmers must surely enjoy a better harvest than similar ones during the past two decades. After Tony Blair had made his keynote speech, the strategic importance of a sound home food production base dominated many a discussion in Brighton. And with the writing on the wall for EU subsidies it was clear from the utterances of leading agri-food figures that new consideration must be given to producer co-ops. The notion, predictably, has raised smiles in Copenhagen. After all, Danish food producers have been doing things the co-op way for over 100 years. But it was one of their best known figures this week who suggested that their British counterparts would not have the economic clout to make serious inroads with the concept in mainstream food sectors. However, there was almost total agreement that there are significant niche food areas where British farmers can band together and organise joint manufacturing, marketing and selling in a way which would give valuable, life saving sales opportunities. And, for the moment, this seems likely to be the most effective route forward. But the Danish experience suggests our farmers should tread carefully. Regular epidemics of internal politics have often coloured Scandinavian progress. It's said that if two Danes were shipwrecked on a desert island, their first act would be to form a committee. Surely our producers would not display such distinctive political traits? Clive Beddall, Editor {{OPINION }}