The beginning of 2020 has certainly proved relentless in challenging Australians. Woolgrowers across the country have battled a range of extremes, from ongoing drought to bushfires, and now the effects of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the subsequent changes that we have all had to adapt to our everyday lives.
WoolProducers continues to work across all of these policy areas to ensure that the Australian wool industry remains ready to continue operating through these trying times. In doing so, we are working to support each and every woolgrower through our advocacy efforts and policy setting.
WoolProducers has coordinated the domestic wool supply chain response to COVID-19. This includes participation in daily industry meetings, advocacy at both Federal level with the Minister for Agriculture and the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, and directly with Premiers and Agriculture Ministers in each wool growing state.
Our message is clear – the Australian wool industry is essential.
Our farmers and supply chain businesses, including the wool harvesting and livestock contractor sectors must be able to continue operating, and while it may not be business as usual as we have provided guidance and implemented protocols to meet and exceed government health directives, we continue to operate.
WoolProducers have successfully advocated for all businesses and services in the wool industry to be deemed essential services by federal and state governments. The economic benefits of the wool industry both at a regional and national level, coupled with the excellent animal welfare outcomes mean that the wool industry can be deemed as anything other than essential. To read our briefing paper please click here.
We have also worked with supply chain and industry stakeholders to provide concise information to support those working in industry to understand how they should operate in accordance with the various state and federal advice for managing COVID-19 spread. To do this, we facilitated the collaborative development of Protocols in Response to COVID-19 for Shearing Operations, Protocols in Response to COVOID-19 for Livestock Contracting Operations and have also prepared responses to Frequently Asked Questions for wool market operations. Our website is regularly updated on industry-specific COVID-19 information as well as state border control updates. You can access our designated COVID-19 webpage by visiting www.woolproducers.com.au
While the COVID-19 response presents various challenges and changes daily, we are committed to working for industry as we work through the uncertainty that is confronting all of us. We are focused on policies and protocols that cause minimal disruption to operations and do so knowing that this will make the transition to post-COVID-19 a smooth one.
We are ever vigilant of the issues outside of COVID-19 that have the potential to impact your businesses. WoolProducers remains actively involved across industry’s efforts to assist those growers who are battling through tough drought conditions.
We continue to navigate through the forthcoming Australia-United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement, and gained great insights into the UK sheep and wool sector’s views on what this agreement should look like when we met with a delegation of UK farmers, policy staff and government officials on their recent tour to Australia.
WoolProducers, with Australian Wool Innovation and the Livestock Contractors’ Association, have released the Plan, Prepare and Conduct Best Welfare Practice Lamb Marking Procedures: Training Guide after several years of development. The guide has been distributed to all Registered Training Organisations who are listed as providing registered lamb marking training, as well as universities and other training institutions that deliver similar training to students. The University of Queensland has made the guide available to all first-year veterinary science students.
We continue to have strong input on national traceability issues for livestock and wool bales and continue to work with both the red meat sector, wool industry and government on these issues through the Sheep Traceability Working Group, SAFEMEAT Advisory Group and the Integrity Systems Taskforce. WoolProducers has also had discussions with AWI about potential traceability projects for wool bales and will commence a project to review the traceability throughout the entire wool supply chain from farm to port over the coming months.
WoolProducers has been the force driving the implementation of the National Sheep Industry Biosecurity Strategy, which soon commences roll-out in South Australia. We have organized initial discussions in two other states to keep momentum on the Strategy’s roll-out and look forward to some announcements over the coming weeks. Continuing with biosecurity, we participated in the Feral Pig industry roundtable hosted by the newly appointed National Feral Pig Coordinator, Dr. Heather Channon, who acknowledged the policy work of WoolProducers that has led to Government supporting a National Feral Pig Action Plan.
We are also working to deliver an exciting trade project, Trust in Australian Wool, with Animal health Australia (AHA) and consultant Dr. Paul Swan. The project will provide our trading partners with an overview of the entire domestic supply chain, beginning on farm, and demonstrating Australia’s high-standard practices across animal health and welfare, sustainability, traceability, wool specifications, and how we match with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The project will be translated to three languages other than English and distributed to our international customers across Europe and Asia, as well as to Australian Government officials in our major trading partner nations.
While the AHA meeting week was disrupted due to COVID-19, WoolProducers participated in the Members’ Forum video conference and our Policy Manager attended the Industry-Government Communications Workshop, Emergency Animal Disease (EAD) Response Agreement Workshop, and was the livestock industry representative at the National Animal Health Training Reference Group meeting. We have progressed discussions on next steps and actions for wool industry EAD preparedness following the whole-of-supply chain training (the first of its kind in Australia!) that we ran in Melbourne last year and are working to deliver next steps once COVID-19 social distancing measures are relaxed.
WoolProducers has also welcomed the sensible outcomes from AWEX’s review of the National Wool Declaration which saw strategic advocacy efforts with our members and through our representation on the AWEX Industry Services Advisory Committee.
Our relationship with the federal Minister for Agriculture remains strong and we continue to make representations on behalf of woolgrowers to Minister Littleproud. We have also met with Mr Andrew Metcalfe AO, the newly appointed Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment to provide an overview of our current policy and issues environment.
Our sights are always set to the future with the best interests of Australia’s woolgrowers at the fore of everything we do. As we move forwards through the COVID-19 response, we continue to be pre-emptive of policy outlooks across a vast array of policy areas.
Keep safe and healthy.