Wool levy vote on farm radar

Headshot of Bob Garnant
Bob GarnantCountryman
WAFarmers livestock council member Steve McGuire. Daniel Wilkins
Camera IconWAFarmers livestock council member Steve McGuire. Daniel Wilkins Credit: Daniel Wilkins/The Sunday Times, Daniel Wilkins

Australian woolgrowers have been urged to start thinking about what wool levy they would like to pay to Australian Wool Innovation for the next three years.

Farmers will take to the polls between September 13 and November 5 to decide how much they will contribute to the research, marketing and innovation body.

They will vote through WoolPoll — a voluntary vote of all wool levy payers.

Australian Wool Innovation chairman Jock Laurie confirmed on Monday that the AWI board would recommend a WoolPoll levy rate of 2 per cent.

This follows the board’s recommendation last Thursday of adding a 2.5 per cent supplementary rate to the previously confirmed rates of zero, 1, 1.5, and 2 per cent.

“At last week’s board meeting, the board decided to support a 2 per cent rate,” he said. “It is the rate they (AWI board) supported at the last WoolPoll.”

“We see some real opportunities to invest into our marketing and research programs again,” he said.

“We’re in a position that we believe we need a 2 per cent rate that will give us the funding that is required, and to allow us to maintain the starting levels we need.”

Mr Laurie said to take advantage of some of the current opportunities, AWI would require a certain amount of expertise and investment.

“We are seeing some great strength coming out of the Chinese market at the moment,” he said. “A lot of opportunity from leisure wear, but the buying of suits is going backwards because of COVID.”

Mr Laurie said there was a fair bit of work to do, to understand where the workforce would end up in a post-COVID era and how that market could be stimulated again.

“There are some challenges, but there are some opportunities and it takes money to invest and that’s why we settled on a 2 per cent figure,” he said.

WAFarmers livestock council member and WoolProducers Australia director Steve McGuire said AWI’s recommended 2 per cent rate was not surprising.

He urged AWI to release its WoolPoll 2021 Voter Information Memorandum — explaining the levy rate options — as soon as possible.

WoolPoll 2021 Panel independent chairman Steven Bolt.
Camera IconWoolPoll 2021 Panel independent chairman Steven Bolt. Credit: Josh Fernandes/The Livestock Collective, Josh Fernandes

WoolPoll 2021 Panel independent chairman Steven Bolt said the voter information pack would be sent out to all woolgrowers in the coming weeks.

He said this year’s WoolPoll would also ask woolgrowers whether they want a five-year WoolPoll cycle, instead of a three-year cycle.

“This gives woolgrowers even more say in the direction of the wool industry,” Mr Bolt said.

Mr McGuire issued a warning to the AWI board to expect some backlash from woolgrowers after putting up a 2.5 per cent supplementary rate.

“Last WoolPoll, only 3 per cent of voters voted for the two options above the status quo of 2 per cent,” he said.

“It appears to be nothing more than a cynical ploy to avoid the 2 per cent levy option being the highest and to make it look more acceptable on the voting form.

“With the Eastern States drought now behind us, promising an increased Australian wool clip and while wool prices remain strong, I believe AWI could be more successful if they had put up 1.75 per cent as their supplementary rate.”

“In the 2018 WoolPoll, WAFarmers recommended a 1.5 per cent rate.’’

“This was because AWI’s reserves were $120 million and we felt that some of that money was better sitting in growers bank accounts rather than AWI’s.”

Mr McGuire said AWI’s reserves were now at $100 million and he felt woolgrowers may accept a 1.75 per cent levy rate.

“WAFarmers Livestock Council will consult with its members to determine if they would like the organisation to recommend a levy rate to woolgrowers for WoolPoll 2021,” he said.

WoolPoll was created in 2003, with growers always voting in a two per cent levy until 2018 when they voted for 1.5 per cent.

To find out more, visit woolpoll.com.au/index.html?new=1.

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