Some Australian woolgrowers have accused the industry’s research, development and marketing body of attempting to ‘brainwash’ producers by recommending a levy increase weeks before an industry poll opens.
- Australian Wool Innovation is recommending a 2 per cent levy rate
- Some growers say the proposal is a ‘slap in the face’ for industry
- WoolPoll is held every three years to determine how much growers want to contribute to R&D and marketing
WoolPoll is conducted by Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) every three years to determine what percentage of wool income Australian growers are prepared to invest in R&D and marketing.
AWI is recommending growers vote for a 2 per cent levy — an increase from the current 1.5 per cent rate voted in by growers in the last poll.
Listen not dictate
Digby Stretch farms at Kojonup, about three hours southeast of Perth in WA’s Great Southern and was involved in the formation of WoolPoll.
He said he was ‘disappointed’ but ‘not surprised’ at AWI’s recommendation that levy payers vote in favour of increasing levy contributions.
“The production weighted WoolPoll is a really valuable tool for growers to indicate how they want their levies spent and how much they want to spend but AWI needs to listen to them not dictate to them,” he said.
“I’ve been involved in the WoolPoll process since its inception and AWI has always been upfront in lobbying for the position they think is right for their income stream.
“I take the position that we ought to be deciding that income stream, not them.”
More investment needed post COVID-19
AWI chairman Jock Laurie said the board’s 2 per cent recommendation came because extra investment was needed to address the many challenges facing the industry.
“With COVID and the reduced Eastern Market Indicator over the last 12 months it has had a huge impact on the organisation,” he said.
“Now as we’re getting out of COVID, we’re starting to see threats that we need to invest in. We believe 2 per cent will give us the opportunity to do that.
“Without an increase in the wool levy, good projects that help growers will not be acted on or delivered as quickly. It would be like fighting with one hand behind our back.”
Happy to pay
NSW farmer Floyd Legge has a Poll Dorset stud and fine wool merinos at Cudal, about 300 kilometres north-east of Sydney.
He said he was keen to see the levy increased to 2 per cent to help the industry recover from COVID-19 and grow future market opportunities.
“The value of the product is only what customers are prepared to pay for it.
“We require that marketing and the shop front work that Woolmark, as AWI’s subsidiary, does in order to get people to understand wool and go out and buy it.”
Levy payers will have five options when the poll opens in September, including 0 per cent, 1 per cent, 1.5 per cent and 2 per cent, as well as a 2.5 per cent option put forward by the AWI board.
‘Politics and electioneering’
Mr Stretch questioned the AWI board’s decision to include the extra option.
“Growers are smart enough to know what they want to be doing with their significant spend on the AWI levy.
“AWI just needs to put the facts out for what the various levels of wool levy would be and what they would deliver for each, but putting the 2.5 per cent up there is purely a political exercise.”
Endorsement ‘inappropriate’: Industry body
Wool Producers Australia president Ed Storey said it was ‘inappropriate’ for AWI to ‘lobby’ for the increase when growers and levy payers did not yet have access to the rationale behind the recommendation.
He said WPA had written to AWI to demand the voter information memorandum be released to growers before the poll in September.
“The Voter Information Memorandum will not be circulated, according to AWI, until September, when WoolPoll opens.
“It’s inappropriate for AWI to be spending the next six weeks or longer and staff and directors time lobbying for 2 per cent when growers don’t have the information that is based on in their hands.”