This has triggered a process which will see all levy payers asked to vote on whether they wish the statutory levy, and with it the services offered by AHDB Horticulture, to continue or to cease.
Under the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board Order 2008, requests from at least 67 levy payers are required to trigger a ballot for AHDB Horticulture. Now that the forms submitted last week have been verified as being from levy payers that have paid their levy within the previous 12 months, the process will formally begin.
When will the ballot be run?
The timescale will be confirmed by AHDB once it has appointed an independent company to administer the ballot, but early indications are that it may take place in January.
How do levy payers vote?
Once the ballot is launched, all levy payers within the sector will be sent voting forms and invited to cast their vote. If a business has withheld its levy payment within the past 12 months, they will be unable to vote.
The ballot paper will consist of a single yes or no question: whether levy payers support the continuation of a statutory levy for horticulture. It is important to note that there will not be a third option, such as for a voluntary levy which some growers have been calling for.
What happens once the ballot has closed?
Once the ballot has closed, the results need to be analysed and verified and will then be shared with Ministers and published on the AHDB website. The outcome of the ballot informs Ministers who will then make the decision on the future of AHDB Horticulture.
What happens if growers favour the continuation of the levy?
The final decision rests with Ministers. If the outcome is for the continuation of the levy, AHDB will continue to deliver against its strategy along with its commitment to review the horticulture and potatoes levy systems which may bring about changes in future. Following the conclusion of the ballot, growers within the sector will not be able to call for another ballot within five years. There is still the option for AHDB to call one themselves, or if requested to do so by the Secretary of State.
What happens if growers favour the abolishment of the levy?
The final decision rests with Ministers. The abolishment of the levy would mean the end of AHDB Horticulture and all of the services it provides, including funding research programmes and running the EAMU programme for accessing plant protection products in the UK. Growers would no longer pay a statutory levy, though some sectors that have a vested interest in the research programmes currently operating may choose to fund them through another means.
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