AHDB reform: Defra announces consultation

Published 24 November 2021

AHDB building, Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire

AHDB levy payers are invited to share their views in a Defra consultation on the future of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB). 

Defra has announced this new consultation with proposals to reform the AHDB.

The consultation runs until midnight on 10 January 2022 and members can respond to the Consultation on changes to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) on their website.

The proposals include allowing levy payers to have a greater say on how their levy is spent, via a vote every five years.

AHDB has already committed to delivering the first of these votes in Spring 2022.

Improving transparency

Responding to this proposal, NFU President Minette Batters said: “Defra’s proposal to give levy payers regular votes on their sector’s priorities and how their levy is spent is positive and consistent with our feedback on improving transparency.”

She went on to explain, “We will now consult with our members on the detail of the consultation to ensure these legal changes can help AHDB deliver our sector ambitions.”

The consultation follows the results of recent ballots in the horticulture and potato sectors to end the statutory levy in these sectors.

The proposed end of the statutory levy

Defra proposes to end the statutory levy for the potato and horticulture sectors from April 2022.

It also says that the government remains open to exploring industry-led proposals for AHDB to deliver research and market development through other funding methods, such as voluntary levies.

NFU horticulture and potatoes board chair Ali Capper commented, “The NFU has always maintained that Defra should respect the results of the ballot for both the AHDB horticulture and potatoes levies and many growers will feel relieved that there is finally some clarity emerging.

“However, the significant delay by Defra in releasing a response to the ballot and this consultation has provided growers with little time to adapt to these new circumstances and I am concerned that important research will be put on hold. It is critical that those sectors that wish to continue to work together and jointly fund research programmes have an appropriate legal mechanism in place and are supported in doing so as soon as possible.

“However, the significant delay by Defra in releasing a response to the ballot and this consultation has provided growers with little time to adapt to these new circumstances...”
NFU horticulture and potatoes board chair Ali Capper

Ali Capper went on to point out that, “There are also unanswered questions over how different horticulture sectors could engage with each other on shared objectives, such as innovation and development of new technologies, if they want to do so and we will be asking Defra for clarity on this.

Monetary concerns

Growers have expressed significant disquiet at last week’s issuing of levy invoices by AHDB. She explained, “These have been issued without consultation, with no notice and growers have not budgeted to cover these costs. Together with the significant inflation that growers are having to bear on labour, energy, haulage, packaging and fertiliser costs, there is concern about how these invoices will be paid.”

Members can respond to the Consultation on changes to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) on Defra's website.

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