Payers should decide on AHDB levy use, not Defra, says NFU official

It’s important that the farming industry regularly discusses the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board (AHDB), scrutinises its activities and helps pinpoint the challenges ahead says a leading National Farmers’ Union (NFU) official.

Writing in a blog on the NFU website, the union’s head of food and farming, Phil Bicknell, is positive on many aspects of AHDB’s work and remit, but warns that the organisation must always be accountable to levy payers and that its work must be relevant.

“Critically, it must be those that pay the levy that ultimately determine how it is invested, not Defra, not any individual and not even the NFU,” he states.

“For some, promotion has been a contentious issue through the autumn and the NFU believes that marketing and promotion activity has a clear role in AHDB activity. But it needs to be wider and more strategic than consumer advertising. For instance, it should encompass market and product development, whether that’s helping the supply chain adapt to shifting consumer demand or growing markets overseas.

“Whatever the specifics of the marketing activity, the onus is on AHDB to show levy payers they are getting ‘bang for their buck’. That means targeted activity, with a clear objective, and where value for money can be evaluated.”

Mr Bicknell (pictured above) also highlights the importance, historically, of AHDB’s activity in relation to “much-needed research and development across different sectors”.

“This has a direct and significant impact on the pace of progress for our industry,” he writes. “Arguably, without AHDB, British farming would be completely reliant on research from the commercial sector.”

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