Vote to cut wool R&D funding

Global - wool TD Farm
LEVY: Australian wool growers vote to cut industry levy. (Photo: AWI)

AUSTRALIAN wool producers voted for the first time ever to cut funding for research, development and marketing.

Of the 13,506 votes received – representing 28.67 per cent of eligible levy payers – 52.82 per cent voted for a 1.5-per-cent levy on wool sales.

The levy had been two per cent for the five previous votes and Australian Wool Innovation Ltd (AWI) had recommended this level be retained.

Only 41.78 per cent of the vote opted for two per cent, the percentage lowest ever, and down from 67.86 per cent in 2015.

Woolgrowers vote every three years on what percentage of wool income they would like to invest in R&D and marketing undertaken by AWI.

Industry players say the result was a protest vote over performance of now departed AWI chairman Wal Merriman and the findings of an AWI review and Senate hearings critical of AWI.

Growers ignored AWI director David Webster who claimed growth in demand for wool would almost certainly stall if they voted for 1.5 per cent.

AWI chief executive officer Stuart McCullough says the vote demonstrates continued support for AWI’s role investing in R&D and marketing.

“We have heard their message that they believe a 1.5-per-cent levy is the appropriate levy rate to be paying at this time on their wool sales,” he says.

McCullough says AWI will adjust its operations to match available funding as part of the next three-year strategic plan, which commences July 1.

The company will endeavour to ensure no loss of momentum in the marketing of wool in Australia and overseas and would continue its targeted investment across sheep health and welfare, reproduction, vertebrate pests, genetics, fibre advocacy, farm automation and software development.

“As woolgrowers adjust to the seasonal conditions, so will AWI adapt to the democratic choice of our levy-payers,” McCullough says.

WoolProducers Australia president Richard Halliday said his group supported a 1.5-per cent-vote after consideration of the figures and projected forecasts provided by AWI.

“WoolProducers strongly believed that 1.5 per cent would provide ample money for AWI to conduct their current business as well as invest in relevant new areas,” he says.

The last three financial years has seen AWI spending of between A$70 million (£39.9 million) and A$88 million (£50.1 million) a year.

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