Defra must listen to ballot results

Defra has been urged to respect the results of the official ballots on statutory levies for horticulture and potatoes as it prepares to draw up its response to the recent consultation on the levy payments gathered by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.

The consultation was required before the statutory instrument, which currently imposes a levy on agriculture and horticulture could be changed, a move which was necessary after levy payers voted for the AHDB’s operations in the horticulture and potato sectors to be brought to an end.

But yesterday those who campaigned against the levy expressed concerns that the exercise could be used to overturn the clear result of the vote which showed that a considerable majority of producers in both sectors wanted to abolish the levies.

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With more than two thirds of producers casting their votes in the poll, Lincolnshire vegetable and potato grower John Bratley, said this had shown the true feelings of the sectors, which had been masked in the last “official” consultation which, he claimed, had spoken to less than one per cent of producers in the sector.

“This latest consultation exercise has been equally badly organised and poorly promoted, and so there is a danger that a vocal minority of growers who support some form of compulsory levy could influence the result,” said Bratley.

“It is, therefore, crucial that Defra respects the result of the ballot, which was organised under the existing statutory instrument, and scrap the statutory levy for horticulture and potatoes.”

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