My name is Makaela Knapp, and I am one of the current Youth Ambassadors for WoolProducers.
With my parents we run a mixed operation in the Great Southern region of Western Australia. We operate a 19-micron self-replacing merino flock and also have a merino stud- Craigmore. I developed an interest in agri-policy through my university degree of International Relations and Sheep & Wool science, however, had focused more on a state- based policy through my involvement with WA Farmers Livestock Council until now.
I want to give an insight into what the Youth Ambassador role has entailed and what I have learnt during my time at WPA. I also commend WPA for taking a real interest in focussing on youth and the next generation of wool \growers through the Youth Ambassador program.
It has been a real privilege for me to see how the national peak body operates, and how policy and advocacy is conversed amongst industry leaders. Equally, this experience has given me a deeper understanding of a broad range of topics such as animal health, trade, biosecurity, traceability, sustainability, pain relief, animal welfare, wild dogs, and much more.
Sitting in on meetings has shown me how well WPA represent the interests of Australian woolgrowers and industry at an international level. This has shown me first-hand how my degree can be applied to deliver increased export diversification for our product. For example, WPA’s representations relating to the India Free Trade Agreement, with tariffs of up to 20% to be eliminated when the agreement comes into force.
WoolProducers success in securing a grant for a feasibility study into domestic processing is another big event that’s happened during my time. After our recent trip to Adelaide for meetings it was incredibly eye-opening seeing Michell Wool’s scouring and carbonising plant which clarified how important this study is to hopefully see more domestic processing. I see this as vitally important to diversify our export markets and reduce risks associated with encroaching Emergency Animal Diseases (EAD).
Trust in Australian Wool (TIAW) is another initiative by WPA and Animal Health Australia that I believe has been a game changer. It is a key reference material document to inform our consumers how we grow wool, specifically international consumers. It has enabled us to share the story of Australian wool and how we use best practice to collectively make our industry sustainable, effective, reliable and resilient. With TIAW, we as an industry can be more transparent and use the credible policies and industry systems referenced in the handbook to engage in valuable conversations with our consumers.
I also had a significant amount of insight into pain relief and animal welfare policy, and how imperative it is to our global markets and consumers. At a producer level I know how important animal welfare is, however I was not aware how important it is becoming for market access. This especially became prevalent with the European Union animal welfare review to upgrade laws to potentially ban tail docking and castration or introduce mandatory pain relief. The potential EU welfare standard labelling laws from this review were possibly being added to imported goods such as Australian wool which caused concern. It was also insightful listening to presentations on the latest pain relief research and see which way industry is heading.
Another part of my time with WPA was to write a policy proposal. I decided to propose implementing a quality assurance scheme similar to the Woolmark for non- apparel wool products. My idea for this came from hearing “is it still even wool?” at a meeting when talking about broad wool. It raised the question for me that if there was a QA system for broader fibre wool would it be valued as much as the finer micron wools? I found this topic and the research around it to be incredibly interesting and for me it definitely reinforced broad fibre wool is just as important and useful as finer micron apparel wool.
Overall, I think WPA has made me prouder to be an Australian woolgrower and be a part of such an innovative, progressive and sustainable industry. The Australian wool industry is definitely one we can be proud of, especially with the work WPA do. I’d like to finish by thanking WoolProducers for this incredibly invaluable opportunity over the past 12 months, I am forever grateful.