AHDB pledges to reform in response to request for views

AHDB says the reforms will ensure it is 'fit for purpose in the changing times British agriculture is facing'
AHDB says the reforms will ensure it is 'fit for purpose in the changing times British agriculture is facing'

AHDB has pledged a new strategy and improved communication with levy payers on how their money is spent as part of key reforms.

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) has committed to a regular ballot on the levy and how it is spent.

It has also committed to a review of the levy system for potatoes and horticulture, and a review of its board and committee structure.

It follows a series of recommendations published by the government in April to reform the organisation following a three-month request for views across all of its sectors.

AHDB Chair, Nicholas Saphir said the organisation had 'listened carefully' to the views expressed by levy payers in response.

“As a new chair, I felt it was essential that we took time to consider fully the feedback from the exercise and its implications, and make clear commitments on how we will move forward,” he said.

Mr Saphir, who was appointed in April 2020, underlined AHDB’s new five-year strategy, which is being published for feedback this autumn.

The strategy will focus in two key areas of market development and farm performance.

“Our work during Covid 19 showed AHDB is at its best in responding quickly to the needs of farmers at a time of crisis, and we were able to clearly demonstrate the value we add for our levy payers," he said.

Mr Saphir added that this built on the work being done with the Monitor and Strategic farms, export markets and promotion of products at home and overseas.

He added: “Our industry is about to undergo significant change driven by a new direction in trade and agriculture policies, as well as shifting consumer demands.

"Farming and supply chain businesses will need to compete with the best in the world, drawing on the latest insight to improve farm performance, grow market opportunities and meet environmental goals.

“That is what we will provide in our new strategy – and we will commit to telling our levy payers on a regular basis how we are spending their money and the benefits it brings,” he said.

AHDB has also pledged a regular ballot on the sector levies and how they are spent.

It said the timings and format of any ballot would need to be worked out with Defra and the devolved governments before being incorporated into the statutory legislation which covers AHDB.

Alongside this, AHDB will be reviewing and updating the levy calculations for horticulture and potatoes, which are based on business turnover in horticulture, and hectares planted in potatoes.

Mr Saphir said: “This is a piece of work which has been in train for some time, and we are very aware of the current strength of feeling in these sectors. We are working with growers to see how we can design a more modern system.”

The final part of AHDB’s reforms will focus on the current structure of the organisation's boards and committees, which has been in place since 2008.

An independent review of governance has been put in place and will produce recommendations for change by the end of 2020.