Two high profile wool industry leaders Michael Field of TA Field Estates Pty Ltd the largest progressive fine wool producer in the world and Steven Read the CEO of Michell Wool are seeking nominations to stand for the Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) board elections in November.
With their strong agri-business background, they each believe strongly in good corporate governance and a healthy culture.
Mr Read said he and Mr Field are committed to serving the wool industry and they would bring to the board concern for the future of commercial woolgrowers in an increasingly challenging commercial and environmental market without any sectorial ties.
This means responding to and engaging with all stakeholders.
Mr Read said he would like to see real cultural change to AWI by getting all the stakeholders to return to the table and collaborate with projects to drive the industry forward.
"My business is in the middle of the supply chain and I think AWI and The Woolmark Company can do a lot more for the woolgrowers," he said.
"There is a lot that AWI does very well, but I think they can do a lot more and especially with engaging with all stakeholders."
There is a lot that AWI does very well, but I think they can do a lot more and especially with engaging with all stakeholders."
Mr Read said he and Mr Field will be pushing to proactively rebuilding collaborative, inclusive relations with other relevant RDC's, wool industry bodies, key wool customers, clients in Australian and internationally, and importantly the Federal Government.
"AWI has burnt a lot of bridges and fallen out with a lot of stakeholders and we think there is more to be achieved," he said.
"This is a wonderful industry and wool has a great story to tell as far as sustainability but I am concerned that it is always on the backfoot defending its virtues."
Mr Field said he and Mr Read want to look after the interests of all woolgrowers not just any section of the industry.
"I'd like to see more research which will enhance wool and sheep production," he said.
"AWI should be having more conversations with Sheep Genetics to highlight the advances being made."
Mr Field also drew attention to the tardiness of implementing the recommendations of the 2018 Ernest and Young Review of Performance.
"It has been three years and still the recommendations are yet to be finalised," he said.
"It is a matter of urgency they be implemented."
It has been three years and still the recommendations are yet to be finalised."It is a matter of urgency they be implemented."
They are very aware of issues such as the large shearer and shed hand shortfall, and are each committed to supporting and increasing the access to and implementation of the successful AWI shearer and shedhand training programme.
But, Mr Field said, there have been programs supported by AWI, but he queries the effectiveness of the woolgrowers money spent.
"AWI spends a lot of money on promotion and research but they need to be seen by the woolgrowers as having spent that money wisely and getting value for their levies," he said.
"A lot of time and research levy dollars has been invested in Wool Q (well over $5 million), this lack of adoption by the industry, begs the question as to whether AWI should continue to fund it."
It is unfortunate the mulesing debate continues and they are both united in the view that it is not the role of AWI to dictate to producers whether they continue with this practise or not.
"We are all individual producers with concern for the care of our sheep, but with the diversity of agro-climatic systems, sheep producers have different production methods and cost bases and will make their own decisions regarding mulesing," Mr Field said..
He pointed to the recently released Sheep Sustainability Framework metric that painful animal husbandry practices be replaced where possible and pain relief used where appropriate.
"Ultimately it will be the market which will dictate if this practice remains appropriate for individual wool growing businesses, but is up to each wool grower to make their decisions when knowing the market's response," he said.
Mr Read and Mr Field will ensure the comprehensive market reports from AWI's marketing operatives across all markets, but especially Europe, remain detailed and comprehensive and they are provided in maximum detail to wool growers.
"We will also ensure a comprehensive review of the market diversification strategy," Mr Read said.
"The current strategy has been operating for seven years and the "diversification" has led to the opposite occurring with even greater market concentration."
Both Mr Read and Mr Field have a sound knowledge of what is involved in wool production and will bring to AWI board practical experience of the challenges of growing and processing wool.
Mr Read understands in detail the individual requirements of what wool types suit individual markets, added to this is his experience and knowledge of our downstream processors across the world.
Mr Field understands in detail the on-farm management requirements of the major agroclimatic and enterprise production systems and the on-management and research needs to breed sheep across these systems to meet the needs of our domestic and international customers.
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