The results showed that 61% of respondents to the AHDB Horticulture levy ballot voted to discontinue the levy.
The NFU's horticulture and potatoes board held a special meeting on Monday 22 February to discuss the ballot and concluded it was important Ministers respect the results of the ballot.
Following that meeting, an NFU spokesperson said: “In a special session this week, the NFU horticulture and potatoes board agreed that it is important that Ministers respect the result of the AHDB horticulture levy ballot. It also agreed that levy payers’ views should be given full and careful consideration by Ministers as they reach a decision on the future of the statutory levy.
“At its annual conference yesterday, the NFU called on the Defra Secretary George Eustice to offer clarity on the timings and the considerations that he and the Ministers in the devolved nations will be making. He confirmed that the status quo would not be maintained but recognised the needs of the sector differ from business to business. The NFU stands ready to assist in discussions with levy payers and Defra.”
In her initial reaction to the ballot, NFU horticulture and potatoes board chairman Ali Capper said:
“This vote demonstrates that many growers feel either disappointed or disengaged with how their levy is being spent. It will also be a disappointing result for those that see the importance in the principle of a statutory levy and the value that applied research and development can deliver for their businesses.
“A number of businesses have come out in support of the statutory levy in the past few weeks, albeit with necessary reforms of AHDB. While the majority of levy payers voted to discontinue the levy, it is notable that when results are weighted by levy contribution there is a majority to continue the levy.
“This shows just how divided levy payers have become and makes it critically important that Ministers consider carefully how to respect all sides of the debate.
“It is important that the business innovation that comes from research and development programmes and the business critical work on plant protection products are not removed where there remains a need.
“While Ministers are not bound by the vote, I would urge them to engage carefully with levy payers before reaching a decision on the next steps.”
The voting in summary
- By individual votes cast:
- The No vote was 61%.
- The Yes vote was 39%.
- Voting analysis by value of levy paid, showed:
- A Yes vote of 57%.
- A No vote of 43%.
- Overall voter turnout was 69%.
- The ballot will now be considered by Defra Ministers to make a decision on the future of the levy.