NFU responds to AHDB's commitments after government's review

Minette Batters

NFU President Minette Batters has commented on the AHDB's response to the government’s Request for Views.

A new strategy and improved communication with levy payers on how their money is spent are just two of the significant changes AHDB has pledged to make.

This follows the government’s response to the Request for Views, published earlier this year.

Also included are a commitment to a regular ballot on the AHDB levy and how it is spent, a review of the levy system for potatoes and horticulture, and a review of AHDB’s board and committee structure.

NFU President Minette Batters said: “It’s really encouraging that AHDB has listened to the call for reform and is seizing the moment to plan for change.

“In our response to Defra’s request for views, we made the case for an agile levy body with clear focus on business and market development to help us meet challenges and ensure British farming can maximise future opportunities. We look forward to seeing more detail on the new strategy in the coming months.”

The five commitments from AHDB to come out of the exercise were:

• We will seek your views on a new strategy this Autumn and communicate regularly on how your levy has been spent and the benefits

• We will hold a ballot on the levies and how they are spent

• We will work with growers to design a modern levy system

• We will focus on farm performance and market development at home and overseas, driven by independent evidence

• We are currently reviewing our board and committee set-up, with recommendations due by the end of the year.

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AHDB Chair Nicholas Saphir (pictured above), who was appointed in April 2020, said: “We have listened carefully to the views expressed by levy payers in response to the Government-led Request for Views, and we are now committed to some key reforms to ensure we are fit for purpose in the changing times British agriculture is facing.

“As a new chair, I felt it was essential that we took time to consider fully the feedback from the exercise and its implications, and make clear commitments on how we will move forward, as well as ensuring this work is aligned to the new strategy that is being developed.”

“Our industry is about to undergo significant change driven by a new direction in trade and agriculture policies, as well as shifting consumer demands. Farming and supply chain businesses will need to compete with the best in the world, drawing on the latest insight to improve farm performance, grow market opportunities and meet environmental goals.

“That is what we will provide in our new strategy – and we will commit to telling our levy payers on a regular basis how we are spending their money and the benefits it brings."

AHDB has committed to a regular ballot on the sector levies and how they are spent. The timings and format of any ballot will need to be worked out in detail with Defra, and the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Governments before being incorporated into the statutory legislation which covers AHDB.

Alongside this, AHDB will be reviewing and updating the levy calculations for horticulture and potatoes, which are based on business turnover in horticulture, and hectares planted in potatoes. These levy systems predate AHDB’s formation in 2008.

The final part of AHDB’s reforms will focus on the current structure of AHDB boards and committees, which has been in place since the organisation was founded in 2008. An independent review of governance has already been put in place and will produce recommendations for change by the end of 2020.

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