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February 2020, Woolproducers President Report
Ed Storey


While there has been good rain in many wool growing regions across Australia, we continue to think of those that have missed out. WoolProducers has continued to be involved in national discussions regarding drought assistance measures throughout this month.

February has continued to be a busy month for WoolProducers, with both the WoolProducers Animal Health and Welfare Advisory Committee and Executive meetings being held at the end of the month. For those interested, executive summaries of both meetings can be found at: https://woolproducers.com.au/executive-summaries/

February saw the return of Parliament in the nation’s capital and WoolProducers used this time to meet with numerous MPs to discuss issues currently affecting woolgrowers. Areas of focus for these meetings included trade, wool industry structure and drought and fire response priorities.

WoolProducers have also been having several meetings with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment (DAWE).

While there has been a number of issues affecting the wool industry this month, there has been a focus on trade by WoolProducers during February. Issues have included the EU-FTA negotiations and our concerns regarding the proposed inclusion of animal welfare and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) chapters, strengthening relations with India, US-China trade relations impacts, traceability, Covid19 and the cyberattack on the Talman System. We also attended a trade roundtable with Minister Birmingham on 5 February.

The impacts of Covid19 have been monitored throughout the month, with the wool industry at this stage being relatively unaffected. The trade has continued but product is slow to move given the availability of staff in China. Some mills were operational from 10 February following the extension of the Chinese New Year break. WoolProducers have continued to work with the Federal Government on this issue.

While the trade with China has continued despite the Covid19, there was a complete halt to the trade during Week 35 of the selling season, with the Talman System coming under cyberattack. WoolProducers kept both DAWE and Minister Littleproud’s office updated as the situation unfolded. WoolProducers were also in contact with National Council of Wool Brokers and AWEX during this time to keep updated as the situation unfolded.

The Sheep Sustainability Framework (SSF), which is a collaboration between WoolProducers, Australian Wool Innovation, Meat and Livestock Australia and Sheep Producers Australia, has started consultations with industry stakeholders. The Steering Committee has been appointed and is chaired by respected veterinarian and producer Dr Bruce Allworth.

The SSF is modelled on the Beef Sustainability Framework and will look at a broad range of aspects of Australian sheep and wool production and look to gather existing data on these facets or where there is no data establish metrics to capture relevant information to demonstrate industry’s performance in these areas in a transparent manner.

The review of the National Wool Declaration (NWD) entered into its third round of consultation during February, with a new proposal to include a category for ‘Alternative Method’ for wool that is from sheep that have not been mulesed but where the animal has had another form of breech modification conducted.
WoolProducers continues to stand by our original position that we do not see the need for other breech modification alternatives or animal welfare declarations to be included in the NWD.

The NWD relates specifically to the status of the mulesing procedure as defined by the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines.

Other breech modification alternatives to combat breech flystrike, if they do not fit the current definition of ‘the removal of skin from the breech and/or tail of a sheep using mulesing shears,’ does not constitute mulesing and would therefore meet the Non-Mulesed status requirements.

WoolProducers have again urged AWEX to refrain from making a decision on changes to the mulesing categories on the NWD until all relevant information is known. It is clear that there is not a thorough understanding of the potential ramifications of creating an additional status, which has implications for the longstanding and accepted definition of mulesing which has been endorsed by all state and territory jurisdiction.

WoolProducers has held a number of meetings and discussions with stakeholders this month including the NFF National Heavy Vehicle Regulator Working Group, the ACCC regarding the proposed acquisition of Bayer by Elanco, NFF Drought Working Group and Economics, Farming Systems and Farm Business Committee Meetings, RSPCA, AgForce Sheep and Wool Board, AHA, SAFEMEAT, FMD Ready Project and the Effluent Code of Practice Working Group.

As we enter into March, WoolProducers continues advocacy on these key industry issues. We are also progressing work on several projects across market access, consumer perceptions, health and welfare, and traceability within the wool industry. WoolProducers also will be attending the AHA meeting week, which includes a number of directors undertaking Emergency Animal Disease training and staff attendance at Industry and Members’ Forum.
 
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