Disgruntled growers' AHDB ballot attracts 'unprecedented attraction'

The ballot was sent out at the start of July to 1,600 horticultural businesses and potato growers
The ballot was sent out at the start of July to 1,600 horticultural businesses and potato growers

A growers' ballot to obtain views on the future of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board has received 'unprecedented interest', organisers say.

The Lincs growers behind the ballot, flower grower Simon Redden and veg producers Peter Thorold and John Bratley, say the AHDB is 'outdated' and 'unaccountable'.

They are seeking views on the organisation's future, particularly whether it should retain legal powers to collect a compulsory levy-based on the turnover of a farming business.

The ballot was sent out at the start of July to 1,600 horticultural businesses and potato growers.



Since the initial distribution, a further 400 ballot papers have been sent and more have been requested by growers, the growers said.

It comes after a government call for views on AHDB received responses from less than 0.5 per cent of levy-payers.



The three growers said that the results of this survey did not provide a mandate to keep the statutory levy, which funds the AHDB.

They said that low margins in the industry, coupled with the current Covid-19 crisis, meant that the funding mechanism had to change.

Flower grower Simon Redden said he was 'not surprised' by the ballot's response: "The ballot company has already received around a quarter of the ballot papers we sent out.

"This already gives us a much more representative sample of what levy payers really think than Defra's review, which attracted just 225 responses from horticultural and potato growers.”

Vegetable producer Peter Thorold added that there had been a lot of media interest: "The polling company has been receiving up to 70 completed ballot papers daily.

"We are also pleased to see increasing interest from farmers in other levy-paying sectors such as dairy, who are also unhappy with the way that AHDB is set up and run, supposedly on their behalf.”

What are the growers seeking views on?



The ballot organisers, who call themselves the 'AHDB Review Petitioners', are seeking to obtain views on:

• Whether levy-payers wish to continue to fund their sectors of the AHDB by a statutory levy or a voluntary option as suggested by Defra in their survey.

• The decriminalisation of the failure to file returns.

Growers who want a ballot can contact ahdbpetition@gmail.com and request one.