Increase to grower levy gains industry approval
A proposal to increase forestry sector levies for research, development and extension (RD&E), and biosecurity, has been met with overwhelming approval by Australia’s forest growers.
A massive 90 per cent of all voters responded positively to a call by the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) to show their support for a new RD&E levy component, an increased biosecurity levy component and a 20,000 m3 exemption threshold.
The proposal to make the changes was prompted by requests from major Australian growers and members of the AFPA Growers Chamber Research and Biosecurity Funding Working Group.
“A huge thank you to everybody who participated in the poll. The resounding support for the ‘yes’ vote demonstrates that growers understand the importance of biosecurity, and how research and development will drive industry innovation for a positive future,” said Natalie Heazlewood, Senior Policy Manager at AFPA.
As the peak national body for Australia’s forestry, wood and paper products industry, AFPA proposed the changes as an opportunity to increase funding and capacity for vital forest science initiatives, and to tackle ever-increasing biosecurity threats.
Establishing a 20,000 m3 exemption threshold simplifies levy administration, improves equity amongst growers, and still captures 96 per cent of private grower production.
An industry-wide consultation process commenced in October and comprised opportunities for stakeholders to provide feedback and ask questions, followed by a poll conducted by a third party.
The results of this consultation were used by AFPA to prepare a formal case for increasing forest grower levy rates, in the form of a draft proposal, which has now been submitted to the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. Once AFPA receives feedback, the proposal will be finalised and resubmitted, followed by a six-week public objections period.
“The current forest grower levy has remained unchanged since 2007 and the industry has become increasingly aware of the need to boost funding to address biosecurity threats, rebuild forestry research capacity, and enable greater collaborative research to take our industry forward,” said Heazlewood.
“Issues associated with fire, climate change, silviculture, tree genetics, pests and diseases have highlighted the need to inspire innovation that will sustain the industry and enable it to grow and thrive.”
One example of the positive feedback received during the consultation process came from Ian Telfer, CEO of WA Plantation Resources.
“The proposal is critical for sustaining forests and plantations across Australia, and supporting our downstream manufacturing and processing sectors,” said Telfer.
Since 2015, forestry has been the only rural industry subject to a cap on voluntary matched funding, which is currently $1.659 million per annum. As part of the formal proposal to the government, AFPA is also requesting the removal of this cap.
If successful, the additional funds generated for RD&E through the levy increase will be managed by FWPA, and biosecurity funds would be managed by Plant Health Australia.
As the relevant industry association, AFPA is taking the lead on this process. FWPA, as the recipient of the levy revenue, is precluded from this role under Australian Government levy guidelines.