The federal government is being called on to suspend the need for wool growers to pay their levies and instead pay the shortfall for them.
The calls, which come from the wool producing industry's peak national body WoolProducers Australia (WPA), come as the wool industry continues to be hit hard by the aftershocks of coronavirus and its associated lockdown measures.
WPA is recommending levies to rural research and development corporations like Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) and Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) be suspended for a 12-month period from August 1, 2020.
But a Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment spokesperson said there was currently no mechanism in the agricultural levies legislation that provided discretion to defer or waive levies or charge liability.
"Amending the legislation would be a lengthy process and would not provide immediate support to levy payers or collection agents," the spokesperson said.
"Agricultural levies are a small, predictable cost of doing business, paid at the time of transaction and imposed at the request of industry to fund industry priorities."
WPA president Ed Storey said the recommendation was an achievable, affordable way to support wool growers during these extraordinary times.
"We think it's something that's achievable that would provide a material benefit for wool growers for a period of time," he said.
"This small level of government facilitation and assistance will help wool growers withstand this external shock and come out of it and prosper when things start to turn around."
He said it was important that revenue streams continued into industry organisations like AWI, which was why they were recommending the government paid the shortfall.
"It's an investment that growers value," he said.
"They're very happy to invest in research and development but at this time, wool growers need help."
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He said the amount the government would have to invest to do this would be a small amount compared to what it was investing in urban areas' recovery.
"This is very cheap for the government compared to what they're spending elsewhere," he said.
"It's not a huge amount [for each individual wool grower] but it will just assist in maybe getting a contractor in to do a particular job or to put a little bit more fertiliser out.
"It's only a little bit of assistance but it would be a great thing for the government to acknowledge the value of Australia's wool growers."
He compared it to when the NSW government paid farmers' Local Land Services rates during the drought, and "producers appreciated that very much".
"It's all about keeping cash in the economy and keeping people employed and businesses afloat," he said.
He said they were still waiting to hear back from the government on whether they would approve this plan.
In response to questions from Australian Community Media on whether they supported these calls, both AWI and MLA said it was a matter for the federal government.
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