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Kojonup woolgrower puts hand up for AWI Board nomination

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Aidan SmithCountryman
Kojonup woolgrower Neil Jackson, with son Sam, 15, in the wool shed in 2010.
Camera IconKojonup woolgrower Neil Jackson, with son Sam, 15, in the wool shed in 2010. Credit: Danella Bevis/Countryman

After 40 years of working with wool, Kojonup mixed farmer Neil Jackson has unveiled plans to put his hand up for the Australian Wool Innovation Board at this year’s annual general meeting in November.

Mr Jackson decided to run for the position a few weeks ago and is confident he can drum up the support needed, after already notching up 30 signatures out of the 100 required to proceed with the application.

He said he had the “time and the passion” to commit to the role as his son was “stepping up” more on the farm, giving him time to ease off the pedal and assist AWI and the industry to navigate the challenges it faced.

“AWI has some pressing issues at the moment,” Mr Jackson said.

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“People are leaving the industry in numbers we haven’t seen before in my 40 years in the industry.

“There’s a crisis with live exports and a crisis with shearing that needs to be addressed.”

Mr Jackson said he had a “vested interest in the wool industry” and “loved the fibre and the product” and wanted to see the best outcomes possible into the future.

“I’m excited about AWI’s partnerships with fashion brands and the opportunities that presents for wool,” he said.

In reference to the work he had done on traceability with WoolQ, he said it was “important that all of our products can tell a story, to connect with consumers”.

The Jacksons shear about 27,000 sheep on farm, as well as being grain producers.

He said the industry needed to continue to research alternative ways to improve the shearing industry at minimal cost to woolgrowers, through adoption of new technologies.

From a 2021 ram sale, with the $9000 top-priced sale ram, was East Strathglen stud co-principal Rhoan Sprigg, Overton stud principal Neil Jackson, of Kojonup, and his son Sam Jackson, and Elders stud stock agent Preston Clarke.
Camera IconFrom a 2021 ram sale, with the $9000 top-priced sale ram, was East Strathglen stud co-principal Rhoan Sprigg, Overton stud principal Neil Jackson, of Kojonup, and his son Sam Jackson, and Elders stud stock agent Preston Clarke. Credit: Bob Garnant/Countryman

Mr Jackson has seen the national sheep flock decline from 180 million head to 70 million, at the same time “growers are battling to get their sheep shorn”.

“The trend is there and we need to do something,” he said.

“We need to encourage youth into the industry — that requires better money, technology and efficiency.

“The gains in the grains industry have attracted young people to it and we need to do the same.”

While he doesn’t have any gripes with AWI, Mr Jackson felt with the current climate of a reduced AWI levy of 1.5 per cent, COVID-related delays and pressures to the wool supply chain, as well as reduced wool and meat prices impacting growers, the organisation needed a conservative financial approach.

“AWI needs to be fiscally responsible and not undertake anything that does not pass the pub test and doesn’t benefit growers directly,” he said.

Mr Jackson has extensive experience in working for woolgrowers since 2000, with his involvement in the OJD advisory board, Merino organisations, as well as the Biosecurity Agriculture Management Act and its related sheep funding scheme.

Fellow Kojonup sheep farmer and WAFarmers vice president Steve McGuire is also planning to nominate for the AWI Board this year.

AWI has two positions available after WA woolgrower and mixed farmer David Webster, who joined the board in 2008, and NSW farmer James Morgan both announced plans to step down in November.

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