Wool levy payers may be paying twice – WoolProducers Australia

Wool levy payers needed to ask if they were again paying for genetic data they had previously funded under Sheep Genetics Australia (SGA) and consider the question of how vital R&D programs were being funded.

This was the view today of WoolProducers’ Australia CEO, Jo Hall, who said it would be ‘disappointing’ to learn wool growers may have to ‘pay retail’ for access to analytical data they had previously part-funded.

AWI contentiously withdrew its share of funding for the SGA management agreement with fellow R&D provider Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) last year.

The agreement had meant that wool growers through AWI, had contributed half of the development costs for a range of genetic programs including MERINOSELECT, the genetics evaluation program for Merino sheep.

“WPA has always had concerns that the long-term consequences of AWI ceasing to fund the genetics program had not been properly considered,” Ms Hall said.

In its submission to the 2014 public consultation into Genetic Benchmarking: Potential for Further Commercialisation of AWI-funded or part-funded projects after June 2015, WPA supported an operationally expanded version of the program

Under this proposal, breeders would pay for private-good and MLA and AWI would fund public-good R&D and the two would continue jointly managing Sheep Genetics Australia.

“At the time WPA urged AWI to continue investment in genetic benchmarking services, Sheep Genetics, MERINOSELECT and AMSEA,” Ms Hall said.

“Collaboration between traditional and scientific approaches to benchmarking was to be encouraged and needed to be pursued.”

Following the public consultation in 2014, levy payer feedback delivered a clear mandate for ongoing investment. AWI then commissioned a separate economic assessment of its investment in genetics and found a negative return on investment.

The economic report conducted by BDA Group was widely criticised at the time for not appropriately valuing genetic gain and the basis of the assumptions used.

Since the decision was made by AWI that investment in SGA would cease they have launched Merino Lifetime Productivity, which relies on data analysis through OVIS – now managed solely by Meat and Livestock Australia.

‘WoolProducers Australia hopes that there is a way for this genetic data to be accessed on behalf of wool growers for future programs without them having to pay twice.” Ms Hall said.

ENDS

WoolProducers Australia contact:

Jo Hall

Chief Executive Officer

0488 554 811