AWI under poll pressure

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Bob GarnantCountryman
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Farmers and lobby groups across WA are questioning the status quo of 2 per cent in the upcoming WoolPoll levy vote.

Dowerin sheep producer Brett Jones told _Countryman _ last week that he was considering a 0 or one per cent vote.

Mr Jones, principal of Ejanding Merino stud, said he was against Australian Wool Innovation's (AWI) recommendation of a continued 2 per cent levy after the AWI board decided not to fund the Information Nucleus Flock (INF) project.

The AWI board rejected an application in December to provide $4.8 million over nine years to help fund an ongoing INF.

AWI rejected the funding application prepared by Sheep CRC on the grounds that DNA testing was too expensive and that only 15 per cent of Merino studs used breeding values in their selection process.

Mr Jones is one of the 15 per cent and is critical of the AWI board, saying it just did not understand or was just being biased and self interested.

Eneabba commercial woolgrower Sean Plozza is also very disappointed by AWI's decision to not fund the INF.

"WA producers need more science, not less, when we are up against diverse seasonal conditions," Mr Plozza said.

"As commercial woolgrowers we are using Australian Sheep Breeding Values to make more informed decisions on increasing profitability within the capabilities of our flock.

"I think there needs to be a change in leadership on the board level at AWI.

"However, I will still be voting for a 2 per cent levy as it is not a funding issue, rather how this money is invested."

The PGA is urging the State's woolgrowers to vote for no more than a one per cent levy option in the WoolPoll.

PGA livestock committee chairman Digby Stretch is recommending the levy be lowered from 2 per cent, saying AWI's marketing drive is not the answer.

"Woolgrowers are sick and tired of AWI preaching the benefits of levy-funded marketing when the market rises and being nowhere to be found when it falls," Mr Stretch said.

He said by voting for no more than one per cent, levy payers were sending a strong message to AWI that it needed to revisit its business plan.

"AWI needs to increase its support for the genuine research and development that our wool industry really needs."

Mr Stretch warned levy payers that if they thought not voting was a protest, they were wrong and their vote just would not count for anything.

"Apathy will ensure more of the same," he said.

WAFarmers is yet to voice a position on the WoolPoll levy vote.

A representative said the group would most likely state a position after their wool council meeting on October 12.

Voting in WoolPoll 2012 opens on September 21 and closes on November 2.

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