PEAK wool grower WoolProducers Australia is pushing for greater independence in the WoolPoll process that decides the levy options growers currently vote on every three years.
WoolProducers also supports consideration of a five-yearly WoolPoll ballot, aligning it with the strategic planning cycles of Australian Wool Innovation and Meat & Livestock Australia.
Apart from a mandated zero option, growers have traditionally been able to vote only on WoolPoll levy percentage options determined by AWI, regardless of industry recommendations.
Australia’s wool growers have until Friday 29 May to make written submissions to the WoolPoll review either in response to a discussion paper here or by completing an online survey here.
WoolProducers has decided to keep its WoolPoll review submission confidential, but WPA chief executive officer Jo Hall said the review was an “extremely important” opportunity for growers to shape the mechanism that enabled them to set the levy they pay.
“We would like to see more independence in the process and we would like to see alignment with strategic periods between MLA and AWI.
“We believe that will be the single biggest thing that would deliver greater returns from levy dollars, regardless of whether enterprises have wool or sheep meat focus.
“Generally speaking, they are paying two separate levies to MLA and AWI, so it just makes sense that their strategic periods are aligned to encourage greater collaboration,” she said.
“We are quite open to considering five years between WoolPoll ballots, given that the three-year R&D cycle is exceptionally short; however, that is contingent on there being more independence in the process.”
Ms Hall said WPA would like the WoolPoll panel to be more independent of AWI.
“For example, we believe that the WoolPoll panel has a really important role to play as the representative voice of growers in this process, but under current regulations there is no binding decision from the panel; the AWI board ultimately makes the final decision on what levy options are presented to growers.
“We think if the panel is going to be convened to this representative voice of growers, we think that they should do just that and have the authority consider all the information and put options out to growers.”
The current WoolPoll review is not considering the issue of whether growers should be able to determine how the levy collected by AWI is spent, but Ms Hall said Question 11 on the survey refers to moving away from the general services levy to another levy-capturing mechanism.
“However, if we remain with a general service levy, we believe that the AWI board should be charged with making that split.
“But what we would like to see is more frequent justification as to how those splits are made.”
After the review submission period finishes on 29 May, the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment will conduct targeted virtual consultation and expects to release its final report later this year.
The department has said it is delivering on a recommendation from the 2018 Ernst & Young review recommendation “to ensure WoolPoll remains an appropriate and contemporary process that provides robust assurance about what wool levy payers want their levy rate to be.”
The 2018 review of AWI’s performance and governance by EY identified opportunities to improve the way WoolPoll operates, and recommended an independent assessment of the WoolPoll mechanism.
The EY review report stated that a shift in the WoolPoll mechanism could be contemplated to reduce the frequency from three to five years.
“This would give longer term funding certainty to AWI, encourage long term investments in research, and reduce the costs of the WoolPoll,” the review report said.
Have your say on the WoolPoll Review discussion paper here.
Complete the survey and submit your feedback online here.