Countryman - - FRONT PAGE - Bob Gar­nant

Aus­tralian wool­grow­ers have bro­ken with tra­di­tion and voted for a re­duced 1.5 per cent levy in WoolPoll.

From July 1, 2019, to June 2022, levy pay­ers will see their con­tri­bu­tion to Aus­tralian Wool In­no­va­tion’s in­come stream, via greasy wool sales, drop by 25 per cent.

The WoolPoll re­sult was de­ter­mined by a count of pref­er­ences over­seen by Link Mar­ket Ser­vices and en­dorsed by the WoolPoll Panel and the De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture and Wa­ter Re­sources.

Of the 13,506 votes re­ceived, fol­low­ing the al­lo­ca­tion of three rounds of pref­er­ences, 52.82 per cent voted in favour of a 1.5 per cent wool levy.

AWI chief ex­ec­u­tive Stuart McCullough said that on the first pref­er­ences, 88.28 per cent of wool­grow­ers had voted for a levy op­tion of ei­ther 1.5 per cent or 2 per cent.

“Let me as­sure wool­grow­ers, we are com­mit­ted to in­vest­ing your levies ef­fec­tively and ef­fi­ciently to de­liver re­sults,” he said.

Mr McCullough said AWI would en­deav­our to mar­ket wool across Aus­tralia and over­seas and would con­tinue a strin­gent on-off farm re­search and de­vel­op­ment pro­gram to de­liver those re­sults.

“We will be pru­dent in manag­ing AWI’s bal­ance sheet and will ad­just its op­er­a­tions to match avail­able fund­ing as part of the next three­year strate­gic plan,” he said.

WAFarm­ers’ live­stock coun­cil vice-pres­i­dent Steve McGuire said the 1.5 per cent levy would be a good re­sult for the wool in­dus­try, given the chal­lenges fac­ing grow­ers, par­tic­u­larly those in droughtaf­fected ar­eas. “We will be re­quest­ing AWI re­lease a State-by-State break­down of the WoolPoll re­sult,” he said.

WoolPro­duc­ers Aus­tralia pres­i­dent Richard Hal­l­i­day said the re­duced levy would pro­vide am­ple fi­nance for AWI to con­duct its cur­rent busi­ness as well as in­vest in rel­e­vant new ar­eas.

“We ad­vo­cated for 1.5 per cent after care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion of the fig­ures and pro­jected fore­casts pro­vided by AWI in the Voter In­for­ma­tion Me­moran­dum,” he said.

WoolPoll Panel mem­ber John Has­sell said the vote be­tween 1.5 and 2 per cent was very close, and the out­come may have been the re­sult of wool­grow­ers be­ing put off by AWI’s gov­er­nance is­sues.

“There has been some bel­liger­ent be­hav­iour from a cer­tain AWI board mem­ber to­wards what I con­sider a soft set of re­view rec­om­men­da­tions, set up by EY,” he said.

Fran­k­land River wool­grower Richard Coole has reg­u­larly cam­paigned for 2 per cent dur­ing pre­vi­ous WoolPolls, which he re­peated in this year’s vote.

“I ap­pre­ci­ate the mar­ket­ing be­hind AWI’s ini­tia­tives as much as the R and D sup­port and would not like to see ei­ther sub­tract, par­tic­u­larly the lat­ter,” he said. “AWI was in its rights to rec­om­mend a 2 per cent levy, even though wool prices have been at record lev­els.”

Mr Coole, whose levy pay­ment was about $42,000 last year, said it was im­por­tant to get wool in front of con­sumers, in par­tic­u­lar to close the city-coun­try di­vide.

“Some of the ar­gu­ments on the levy op­tion may have re­flected badly in this re­gard,” he said. “With the new levy con­firmed, my con­cern will be on wool prices re­main­ing at cur­rent lev­els and if they were to drop, AWI would con­versely not re­duce spend­ing on R and D.”

Pic­ture: Bob Gar­nant

Fran­k­land River wool­grower Richard Coole voted to re­tain the 2 per cent levy.

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