Feds backs wool levy if there is a sound plan of action
The Federated Farmers Meat & Wool Council has today voted to support a compulsory wool levy on producers - but only if the cross-industry Wool Working Group comes up with a clear, practicable and compelling blueprint for lifting wool’s profile and returns.
Delegates from the 24 Federated Farmers provinces meeting in Wellington agreed that unless a collaborative plan for wool research, development and marketing is formulated - and then widely backed - the death-knell for the crossbred wool industry in New Zealand would be sounded.
The Wool Working Group, comprising representatives of farmers, buyers and major wool product makers, has since July last year been laying the groundwork for a strategy aimed at better promotion to consumers of wool’s many sustainability, warmth, durability, health, fire-retardant and other qualities over synthetics. The group recognises the need to support manufacturers who are coming up with new and innovative uses for wool to get these products to market here and overseas, and ultimately to lift returns to farmers out of the doldrums.
"Without that plan, we’ve got an industry facing death by a thousand cuts," Feds Meat and Wool Chairperson Miles Anderson said. "My fear is that the next time there is a downturn in sheep meat prices, we’ll lose a critical amount of breeding stock from the sector and ultimately we could see a hollowing out of rural economies, with mass tree-planting on productive farm land."
The Wool Working Group, which meets again tomorrow (SUBS - THURSDAY FEBRUARY 14) already has assurances of government support for an initial period to set up a governance and staff structure to bed in an industry-agreed plan.
Mr Anderson said his Council’s vote to advocate for a compulsory wool levy upon a proven plan and structure was to show that farming leaders were committed to the cause.
"In the last decade, two earlier farmer votes on a wool levy were not successful for different reasons. But our reading of farmer sentiment is that there is widespread recognition that there is now urgency for the entire sector - farmer through to manufacturer - to get on the same page and win the market share this great fibre deserves.
"There is a lot more detail to sort out, including how manufacturers should contribute funding to the cause, but our signal to the Wool Working Group is that if they come up with a workable plan and structure to drive improvements, Federated Farmers will join the push for a referendum to secure a levy to drive progress."
The Council also voted today in favour of the Federation advocating for WRONZ (Wool Research Organisation of NZ) for additional research and development to be funded for strong wool, and greater transparency on funded projects.