Federated Farmers vice president Andrew Hoggard will be standing for president of the farmer lobby at this year’s annual meeting in June.
Feds meat and wool council voted last week in favour of a levy on wool producers; but with the proviso that the cross-industry Wool Working Group (WWG) comes up with a “clear, practicable and compelling blueprint for lifting wool’s profile and returns”.
Delegates from the 24 provinces, at a meeting in Wellington, agreed that unless a collaborative plan for wool research, development and marketing is formulated — and widely backed — the death-knell will be heard for New Zealand’s crossbred wool industry.
“Without that plan, we’ve got an industry facing death by a thousand cuts,” Feds meat and wool chair 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 WWG, comprising representatives of farmers, buyers and major wool product makers, has since last July been laying the groundwork for a strategy aimed at better promotion to consumers of wool.
The WWG met again last Thursday, but 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.
Anderson says Feds vote in favour of a compulsory wool levy, assuming a proven plan and structure, was to show that farming leaders are 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 of the need for urgency in the entire sector — farmer through to manufacturer — to get on the same page and win the market share this great fibre deserves.
“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.”