AHDB levy payers to get to vote on sector board priorities in spring 2022

Levy payers will get the opportunity to vote on the priorities of the AHDB sector levy bodies in the spring, under new proposals unveiled by the Government today. 

The UK Government’s consultation, in agreement with the Northern Ireland, Scotland and WalesDevolved Administrations, is seeking views on proposals for reforms go AHDB, to deliver greater accountability and value for money for farmers across the UK.

The consultation follows a Request for Views on the future of the AHDB in 2018, and the results of recent ballots in the horticulture and potato sectors to end the statutory levy in these two sectors. It is aimed at farmers, growers, processors and others in the food supply chain across the UK who pay a statutory levy specifically to the AHDB.

The consultation proposes:

  • To end the statutory levy in the horticulture and potato sectors from April 2022. The Government and the Devolved Administrations remain open to exploring industry-led proposals for the AHDB to deliver research and market development activities through a range of other funding methods, such as voluntary levies, commercial agreements or new statutory levies where there is widespread support for this; and
  • To allow levy payers in other sectors a greater say on how the levy is spent, through a vote on sector plans every five years. The AHDB has committed to delivering the first vote on sector work programmes in the Spring of 2022.

The consultation notes that, currently, the AHDB Order provides that the AHDB may hold a ballot at any time on
whether or not a levy should continue, if directed by the appropriate authority, and ‘if it receives within a rolling three-month period requests for a ballot signed by at least 5% of persons entitled to vote in a ballot’.

This option will remain. However, the regular votes, starting in the spring, will be limited to the priorities of levy-funded activities.

“Responses to the 2018 Request for Views demonstrated strong support for a regular vote for levy payers at least once every five years and a desire for much greater involvement and say in the future direction of AHDB’s activities, including how levy payers’ money will be spent,” the document states.

But it adds: “In addition, following the results of the binary ‘yes/no’ vote on the continuation of the levy in the horticulture and potato sectors, feedback from stakeholders in the other levy paying sectors has indicated that a more nuanced approach enabling levy payers to vote on priorities across a range of levy funded activities would be more useful and appropriate in future.

“A new approach from next spring will therefore provide levy payers with the opportunity to vote on the work that the AHDB will undertake with levy funds from each sector.”

This will allow, the document said, all levy payers to have a direct influence on identifying the challenges facing their sectors, the broad programmes of levy funded work that are proposed to address these and the option to vote in greater detail on individual products and services. Results will provide evidence to inform decisions by AHDB’s Sector Boards on what is most valuable for their sector.

This autumn, AHDB will be asking levy paying businesses to register and nominate who will vote on their behalf, ahead of voting in spring 2022 on the activities and priorities they want to see AHDB deliver. AHDB will be announcing more details on this new voting process in early autumn 2021.

The consultation adds that it is important for levy payers to retain their current rights under the legislation to request a ballot on whether the levy should continue which can be used ‘if there is widespread dissatisfaction with the five-year work programme for any sector’. It is therefore proposed that the current provision which allows for a ballot to be triggered by a least 5% of persons entitled to vote on whether the levy should continue
should remain in the AHDB Order.

The consultation runs for seven weeks from today, November 17, to midnight on January 10, 2022. For further details and to respond to the consultation, CLICK HERE 

In a joint statement, UK government and Devolved Administration Ministers said: “Our proposals for a reformed and more accountable AHDB respect the outcome the horticulture and potato ballots and sit alongside improvements already underway to deliver a more efficient organisation, and better value for money for farmers and growers.

“We encourage farmers, growers and all relevant stakeholders across the UK to submit their views and help us shape the AHDB of the future.”

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About The Author

Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.