25 Sep 2014

Wool research head defends levy plan

3:42 pm on 25 September 2014

With just over a fortnight to go, more than 20 percent of sheep farmers have cast their vote in the referendum to resurrect the wool levy.

The industry group behind the proposal is asking farmers to bring back the compulsory levy which they dumped about five years ago.

The money raised would be used for non-commercial activities such as communication, education and innovation for the wool industry where they do not already exist.

The farmer-owned marketing and sales company, Wools of New Zealand, has questioned the need for a new levy to cover areas such as research and development (R and D), which it says can be handled by the exisiting Wool Research Organisation (WRONZ).

But the organisation's chairman and Marlborough farmer, Derek Millton, challenges that view.

"WRONZ does not deal with on-farm R and D, and those things have been dropped off with no levy - things like funding of on-farm R and D, animal welfare issues, parasitism, growing better wool.

"Some of the research we've had in the last few years has been more about growing more meat on sheep - probably that's at the expense of wool - and we've got to balance those things up. So that's the sorts of areas I think we should be using this levy fund for in R and D."

Mr Millton said WRONZ is funded by commercial wool industry interests, not wool growers, and in fact it is doing some things that are not its responsibility because there is no levy.

"The international wool trade organisation has delegates in New Zealand that go there and it's really got no funding from any of the commercial companies ... so we have been funding that through wool research and also, the life-cycle analysis and sustainability prorammes that we've wrapped around wool need to be funded as well. Those are two areas where we've been waiting for a levy to take over that funding."

Mr Millton is also a member of the group promoting the wool levy.

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