WoolProducers calls for 1.5pc

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Bob GarnantCountryman
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Woolgrowers will soon vote for their perferred WoolPoll levy option which will determine the funding level that Austrailan Wool Innovation will have to spend on research, development and marketing.
Camera IconWoolgrowers will soon vote for their perferred WoolPoll levy option which will determine the funding level that Austrailan Wool Innovation will have to spend on research, development and marketing. Credit: Countryman

Peak woolgrower representative body WoolProducers Australia is advocating a 1.5 per cent levy vote in this year’s WoolPoll.

WoolPoll is a poll that Australian Wool Innovation is required to conduct every three years asking AWI woolgrower shareholders to vote to determine what percentage of their wool income they would like to invest in research, development and marketing undertaken by AWI.

The voting option rates available for eligible shareholders include zero, 1, 1.5, 2 and 2.5 per cent.

Voting, by online, mail, email or fax, opens on September 13 and closes on November 5 at 5pm AEDT.

The levy rate that gains the most votes would apply from July 2022 to June 2025.

The Voter Information Memorandum is now available online and being mailed out.

WoolProducers representatives have carefully considered the information provided in the Voter Information Memorandum and determined that 1.5 per cent was an adequate rate for AWI to conduct its operations.

WoolProducers president Ed Storey.
Camera IconWoolProducers president Ed Storey. Credit: EXCLUSIVEIMAGES JENNIFER NAGY/Supplied

WoolProducers president Ed Storey said according to the Voter Information Memorandum, AWI had forecast reserves for the end of the financial year, at June 30, 2021, of $106.2 million.

“This does not align with the narrative that AWI needs more money to conduct basic research, development and marketing,” he said.

“AWI have claimed they need an increase in levy to fund research and development for the flystrike vaccine, lobbying the European Union for fair labelling laws for wool, shearer and wool handler training, increasing wool’s use and marketing campaigns for the northern hemisphere.

“WoolProducers believes that these should be standard activities for AWI and if they need 2 per cent to conduct these functions, you would have to question what they are doing with 1.5 per cent that they currently receive.

“In light of the information in the Voter Information Memorandum, AWI simply have not made a strong enough case for WoolProducers to support a levy increase.”

Mr Storey said he understood that the wool industry, like every other industry, had experienced external shocks due to the COVID pandemic, but the healthy reserves that AWI continued to hold — coupled with the fact that the $35 million discretionary reserve was not utilised — demonstrated prudent management by AWI.

“The 1.5 per cent levy rate option recommended by WoolProducers is not a negative or protest recommendation, it reflects that 1.5 per cent was an adequate amount of levy to be paid by woolgrowers that has enabled AWI to continue to operate,” he said.

“Again, considering the Voter Information Memorandum, which outlines numerous key achievements of AWI over the last three years, this was achievable with 1.5 per cent, WoolProducers therefore believes that 1.5 per cent is appropriate going forward, particularly in light of forecast increased production.”

Mr Storey said for those growers who are disgruntled with AWI for whatever reason and are considering voting for a cut in the levy, they need to consider the value of research, development and marketing for the longevity of the industry and vote 1.5 per cent.

“If you want to change the direction of AWI, make sure you are a registered shareholder and make your vote count in the upcoming AWI director elections to vote for change,” he said.

PGA livestock chair Chris Patmore.
Camera IconPGA livestock chair Chris Patmore. Credit: Bob Garnant/Countryman

Pastoralist and Graziers Association livestock committee chairman Chris Patmore said the PGA was recommending a vote of no more than 1.5 per cent.

“There is no need to increase the levy because of AWI’s current reserve level and the anticipated expenditure of our levy dollars,” he said.

AWI chairman Jock Laurie.
Camera IconAWI chairman Jock Laurie. Credit: Australian Wool Innovation/Australian Wool Innovation

AWI chairman Jock Laurie has urged woolgrowers to vote for a 2 per cent levy when voting opens next Monday.

“There is so much work to do on behalf of growers and it is absolutely crucial that we make sure that wool is front of mind of consumers when they return to buying clothes,” he said.

“Lower levy, lower volume and lower prices for wool has meant AWI has undergone fundamental change including a reduction in staff of 35 per cent.

“A lot has changed in the last three years since the levy was lowered from 2 to 1.5 per cent including the latest review of performance which found ‘notable improvement’ in AWI’s operations.

“Another three years of a wool levy below 2 per cent will be a hand brake on AWI’s capacity to work for growers.”

The Voter Information Memorandum reveals how the AWI board predicts potential income and budget assumptions by taking in consideration a number of factors based on current, historical and forward predictions.

These include the Eastern Market Indicator, wool production, government contributions and AWI reserves.

The Voter Information Memorandum features the budgeting scenarios on what actions the AWI board would consider if the levy rate was to be reduced, unchanged, or increased.

Categories that would be reviewed on the outcome of the vote would be sheep production projects, consultation, marketing, processing innovation and education extension and traceability.

WooPoll Panel chairman Steven Bolt said the Voter Information Memorandum had detailed information that growers could make an informed vote, according to their wool business requirements.

“We (Panel members) encourage all eligible woolgrowers to vote,” he said.

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