New plans unveiled
The AHDB’s four sector councils met earlier in the year reflect on the results of their Shape the Future campaign, and to use this information to help inform what the priorities should be for each sector.
Those plans have now been published, and AHDB will look to implement them in the next five years.
Beef & Lamb
The Beef & Lamb council will have a renewed focus on protecting and promoting the reputation of the sector, with the main priorities focusing around the three core themes of exports, marketing, and insight and evidence.
NFU Livestock Board chair Richard Findlay responded by welcoming the plans: “British beef and sheep farmers have a fantastic story to tell but the sector all too often comes under scrutiny. A focus on not only defending but promoting the reputation and benefits of the beef and lamb as part of healthy balanced diet will be crucial, and members will be pleased to see this prioritised.
“It’s also encouraging to see that AHDB’s ambition to boost exports is in line with our own, and we will work closely together to bring greater value back to the farm gate.”
Cereal & Oilseeds
Cereal & Oilseed plans will look improving effectiveness with work across the supply chain highlighted as one of their key priorities. NFU Crops Board chair Matt Culley praised AHDB’s commitment to review the Recommended List as “positive” and highlighted that “AHDB data and market intelligence is important in our sector, but growers would also like to see a greater commercial focus, and more timely publication of data.”
The Dairy sector council plans direct AHDB to focus on the main themes of reputation, gathering data and evidence to underpin the sector’s reputation, and practical support for farmers.
NFU Dairy Board chair Michael Oakes welcomed the action on reputation, promotion and the environment, stating that “it is right that AHDB is at the heart of that work alongside industry partners.”
Michael acknowledged that this prioritisation means some work will have to be stopped and called on AHDB to “look at ways for this work to be handed over to others who could continue it. We also call on government to consider the results of the shape the future vote and look at areas it could assist the industry going forward, such as with Animal Health & Welfare, and labour availability on farm.”
Shape the Future
Following the government consultation at the end of 2021 on proposals to reform the AHBD, levy payers in the beef and lamb, cereals and oilseed, dairy, and pork sectors are now being given more say on how their levy is spent, through a vote every five years.
The first of these votes took place via an online survey, which ran throughout April and May.
AHDB said it received “overwhelmingly positive” feedback as it shared the results of the first survey.
42% of registered levy payers had their say on the priorities for each sector.
The highest ranked priorities included protecting the reputation of the beef, lamb, dairy and pork sectors and supporting farmers through changes to farm support.
You can read the full results of the survey on the AHDB’s Shape the future web page.
Aiding farmers to navigate the future landscape
NFU President Minette Batters said: “It is a critical time for UK food and farming. Giving levy payers the opportunity to help shape the future of AHDB and to establish its priorities for the coming months and years ahead has been an important step in ensuring AHDB delivers the insight and strategic advice needed to help farmers navigate future challenges and maximise opportunities.
“It remains hugely important for the work of AHDB to have real world, positive impact for farming businesses. The NFU and its commodity boards look forward to working with AHDB as it shapes its sector strategies and for those strategies to be crystal clear for all levy paying businesses.”
About the votes
The ‘Shape the future’ votes are not ballots on continuing levies, although AHDB chief executive Tim Rycroft acknowledged that the decision of the horticulture and potatoes sector to end the levy sent an important message and is one of the drivers of change.
“We are clear that the future of AHDB levies is a decision for the industry and Defra and the mechanism remains exactly the same,” he said.
Instead, farmers and growers will be asked to vote on a list of priorities in each sector and will be given the opportunity to add others of their own.
Voting will be on the basis of ‘one levy payer, one vote’, though the sector councils will also be given information on how votes are cast according to scale, along with qualitative feedback from events, focus groups and stakeholder engagement.
Mr Rycroft said farmers’ priorities for levy spend would address ‘myriad challenges’, from changes to farm support, climate and weather events and input inflation to labour accessibility and the impacts of trade deals.