Farmers and growers could soon be asked to vote on how their levy money is spent.
Defra minister Victoria Prentis made the comments in the UK Government’s response to a call for views on the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).
The organisation operates across six different sectors, four of which are UK-wide and two of which are specific to England.
The UK-wide branches of the organisation cover potatoes, cereals and oilseeds, dairy, and horticulture.
The England-specific sectors covered are pigs, and beef and lamb – in Scotland these are covered by Quality Meat Scotland.
In the call for views, 43% of respondents had a positive view of AHDB, and 64% believed the organisation should continue to charge a statutory levy to undertake activities in the agriculture and horticulture sectors.
However, 47% said AHDB’s sector board and committee structure did not serve the needs of levy-payers well, and 69% said levy-payers should be given the opportunity to vote every five years on the continuing existence of the statutory levy in their sector.
“It is apparent that respondents want to see an overhaul of the current structures of AHDB and a reform of its governance so that it is operating in a more modern and effective way,” said Ms Prentis.
“While AHDB has made efforts to reduce its organisational costs, there is further to go and so I am keen for these changes to be implemented as quickly as possible.”
She said a ballot of levy-payers could provide industry with greater ownership and a say in the future direction of AHDB.
“In principle, I envisage AHDB would consult levy-payers in each sector and put before them a five-year programme of activity, for both cross-cutting areas and sector-specific priorities,” added Ms Prentis.
“Levy-payers would then be able to vote on whether that programme is the most appropriate to support their sector.”
AHDB chef executive officer, Jane King, welcomed the findings and said the organisation was committed to being responsive to the needs of its levy-payers.
She added: “We will be making recommendations for changes to our governance structure to ensure that we are leaner and fitter as we face the future.”