Wool Marketing Board seeks new Northern representative after Northumberland farmer steps down

Northumberland Hill farmer Malcolm Corbett, who is stepping down, says body is crucial in giving sheep farmers a collective voice

Northumberland farmer Malcolm Corbett
Northumberland farmer Malcolm Corbett

The British Wool Marketing Board is seeking a new representative for the North - and ultimately a new chairman - following the retirement of well-known Northumberland hill farmer, Malcolm Corbett.

Mr Corbett, who farms sheep and cattle in the north of the county, has served two terms and six years as representative for the North East and North West.

After a year as a board member and a year as vice chairman, he the went on to become chairman for four years.

Yesterday he told The Journal: “I felt that the time was now right to step down.

“There are some very good representatives on the board who would make excellent chairmen, given the opportunity.

“I felt the time was right to get out of the way - four years is a good time to serve as chairman.”

The Wool Board is the largest producer co-operative in Britain, with around 40,000 registered sheep farmers, bringing together a wide range of skills.

Members are normally expect to work around 30 days a year, attending board meetings two or three days each month and attending to local and national BWMB business.

Remuneration of around £8,900 is paid annually, plus expenses.

Mr Corbett, who has also held roles within the NSA and NFU, added: “When I first got involved in 2008, there had more or less been a collapse in the wool price and there were lots of rumblings about the board.

“But this is the last real farmers’ cooperative we have, offering collective strength in the marketplace.

“We consistently have the best wool price in the whole of Europe and when you speak to farmers who don’t have this, it is often looked upon with envy.

“If you look at the dairy industry, for example, those farmers have lost their collective strength and many would like to see that back.”

Among the highlights of his time with the board, Mr Corbett said, was seeing wool prices hit their highest point ever around two years ago.

Frustrations, on the other hand, have included the “vagueries” of the global market and the fact that some farmers still believed they could do better on their own, failing to see the impact the board had made.

He said: “I would encourage sheep farmers to look at this and realise the importance of this collective strength.

“It’s an interesting job; you get the opportunity to look at how the board works and you’re working with farmers all over the North East and North West.

“It’s something anyone who cares about the sheep industry and the small part that wool plays should consider giving serious thought to.”

Also reaching the end of their present terms of office are Nigel Williams, representing English Central, and Ian Buchanan, representing Northern Ireland.

Mr Buchanan will be standing for re-election, while Mr Williams is retiring.

To be eligible for the roles, candidates must be nominated in writing by at least 10 registered wool producers in the relevant regions who will each need to supply their address, authorised signature and registration number.

Depending on the interest in each seat, elections will be held in February and those appointed will hold the office for three years, beginning in April.

Nominations should arrive no later than 6pm on January 29, 2015, and can be faxed to 01274 652233 or emailed to jeanmurphy@britishwool.org.uk

Alternatively, people can write to Mrs J Murphy, British Wool Marketing Board, Wool House, Sidings Close, Canal Road, Bradford, BD2 1AZ.

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