Growing discontent in the farming industry over having to pay compulsory Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) levies has prompted the organisation to guarantee a shake-up.
The main areas of grower dissatisfaction are within the horticulture and potato sectors and it is here the levy body says it will begin delivering better value for money and designing a modern levy system for its new five-year strategy.
AHDB promises those who pay will have more influence on how much is collected and where it is spent. It has also committed to a ballot every five years on the future of the levy and the design of priorities and work programmes.
AHDB chairman Nicholas Saphir said payers’ concerns over delivering value for money in challenging times had been heard. He added: “We fully recognise there are genuine differences between challenges facing sectors, crops and species and that one size of offering does not fit all. Levies in the future must be set to reflect the value provided and work priorities clearly agreed with levy payers.
“In addition, AHDB will review the current tools, services and products across all its sectors to see how they are being used by farmers and growers.
“We will keep listening to levy payers with open board meetings, new levy payer user groups and developing interaction both in person and online.”
The new AHDB strategy for 2021-2026 focuses on marketing and exports and targeting countries such as Japan, China, the US and the Middle East as well as building opportunities in existing markets after the UK leaves the EU.
A new campaign promoting health, nutrition and the environment, to ensure consumers continue to purchase meat, dairy and potatoes, will be launched at the beginning of January.
AHDB will boost its activity opening up new export markets for British produce and will also continue in building opportunities in existing markets in the wake of exiting the EU and new international trade deals.
Responding to the promises of more industry collaboration, NFU president Minette Batters said: “AHDB has clearly listened to the industry and its proposals to improve transparency and governance will be welcome news for many farmers and growers.”
However, she added the union would examine the strategy in greater detail as there are still areas not clear, such as how outcomes of levy investment will be measured.