Peer advisory groups are essentially reciprocal advisory boards. The best known example in agriculture are the CREA groups in Argentina. They were started over 50 years ago and today involve 216 groups of 8-10 producers linked together in the AAREA organization. Although they represent only about .5 percent of the country’s producers, their operations account for approximately 20 percent of Argentina’s agricultural production. Cornell University extension has also formed over 40 dairy discussion groups which operate in much the same way. This past year, Farm Journal Media started the Top Producer Executive Network (TPEN) which eventually hopes to form 500 of these groups. There are also a large number of peer groups that have been formed by individual producers who employ an outside facilitator. The two programs I am personally involved in 1) The Executive Program for Agricultural Producers (TEPAP) and 2) the Association of Agricultural Production Executives (AAPEX) have been promoting this concept for several years. In the summer of 2010, AAPEX conducted a national symposium in Dallas, Texas entitled Peer Advisory Groups in Agriculture: Best Practices and Alternative Structures.
I believe that peer advisory groups represent a critical missing step in the continuous management improvement process. They can deal with issues related to implementation and follow-through, addressing problems and opportunities as they arise, and allow group members to drill down to the level needed to effect change. They allow members to have a team of advisors made up of top producers who have skin in the game, without the fiduciary liability or governance authority associated with a corporate board.