15 Oct 2014

Many still not keen on wool levy

1:37 pm on 15 October 2014

The Gisborne farmer who led an unsuccessful campaign to bring back a compulsory wool levy is sad at the lost opportunity to fund industry activities that are currently not getting support.

Preliminary results of a sheep farmer referendum on the issue show that almost 57 percent of individual farmers who voted opposed the levy.

The weighted vote based on sheep numbers was almost 60 percent against. The final figures are expected today.

The wool levy group was proposing a charge of 2.75 cents a kilogram, which would have raised more than $4.5 million a year to be used for non-commercial activities including new research and education.

The group's chair, Sandra Faulkner, said the results indicate that smaller scale sheep farmers are keener on levy-funded activities than larger wool growers.

"I think that we can see that the bigger growers have probably chosen to support commercial companies and, therefore, feel that they are paying their bit if you like via marketing and development and innovation fees.

"So at the end of the day, if we all made the decision to align with a company that best suits our wool, then we probably wouldn't have had this conversation in the first place."

Ms Faulkner said voter turnout of about 47 percent was well above the usual response for commodity levy votes and shows that farmers do care about the industry.

But Federated Farmers meat and fibre chair, Rick Powdrell, said the results show the industry is nearly split down the middle on the levy issue.

He said there's a strong desire especially among smaller scale sheep farmers, for an industry wide body to represent wool growers.

He said the industry still needs to work on issues raised during the levy discussions about how it can promote and grow itself, and one of those is on-going funding for the Campaign for Wool, which was to have come from the levy.

Mr Powdrell said the past 17 years tell a worrying story for wool, with lamb climbing 500 percent in value, and wool climbing just 10 percent.

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