ADHB give greater powers to voice of sector levy payers

Levy payers who bankroll the workings of the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board are to be given a much greater say in the operation of the organisation.

Tim Rycroft, AHDB chief exec
Tim Rycroft, AHDB chief exec

With those working in the potato and horticulture sectors voting earlier in the year to dispense with the services provided by the board through the collection of producer levies, the organisation has promised that it will listen to what producers in the remaining sectors want.

In February of this year, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, George Eustice announced that levy payers in the remaining AHDB sectors would get a vote in spring 2022 – and this week the AHDB revealed that Shape the Future was how it intended to deliver on that promise.

“From now on, the voice of levy payers will be at the heart of everything AHDB does and AHDB is urging levy payers to have their say,” said the board’s new chief executive, Tim Rycroft.

He said that because farming was getting tougher and because of the ballots in horticulture and potatoes, AHDB would change to better serve levy payers.

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To allow this to happen, the voice of levy payers would in future be clearly heard, with five-yearly votes on what priorities the industry wanted to place on the board’s work.

Similarly, greater responsibility for decisions on how to invest levy payers’ money and how AHDB was held to account for delivery would be handed back to producers.

However, he pointed out that Shape the Future was a consultative exercise on how the levy was invested, not a ‘yes/no’ ballot on whether or not its operations continued – although he added that the power to call a yes/no ballot remained available to all sectors.

Rycroft advised that, in order to ensure that as many levy payers as possible could vote, individual levy payers were being asked to register to vote, s tating that the on-line registration process was simple and should take no more than five minutes.

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Rycroft added, “The purpose of Shape the Future is to ensure that our Sector Councils, when they come to make decisions on how to invest levy money next year, can be confident that they have the best, most robust evidence of what levy payers want.

“They will have the quantitative evidence of how levy payers voted (segmented and one-levy-payer-one-vote), plus qualitative evidence from events, group and individual feedback, stakeholder engagement etc.”

He said this emphasised the fact that the objective of Shape the Future was not simply numeric but whether the board felt it had an accurate picture of what levy payers thought and wanted.

Rycroft also outlined the areas which feedback had indicated were especially valued by levy payers.

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These included fertiliser and variety recommendations in the cereals sector and market intelli gence and genetic information in dairying.

He also said that in the marketing and promotion area, the £3m+ We Eat Balanced campaign, which challenged inaccurate claims about the industry often made by the anti-meat lobby, had also been valued by producers.

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