Farmers to have greater say on AHDB's future direction

The government review showed strong support for structuring AHDB around two central priorities: market development and improving farm performance
The government review showed strong support for structuring AHDB around two central priorities: market development and improving farm performance

The government is recommending a ballot every five years on the future of the AHDB, giving levy-paying farmers a greater say over its future direction.

A series of recommendations have been outlined today (20 April) to reform the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) following three-month request for views across all of its sectors.

The AHDB was established in 2008 to help farmers improve their performance and drive growth, for instance through knowledge exchanges, improving market access and marketing activities.

Following a review into its role and function, Defra has set out recommendations so the levy board can be a 'modern and dynamic' organisation that 'keeps pace with the needs of industry'.



A ballot every five years on the future of AHDB and the strategy in each sector would ensure that the levies paid continue to provide good value for money for farmers post-Brexit, the government said.

The review also showed strong support for structuring AHDB around two central priorities: market development and improving farm performance.



This would allow an increased focus on business resilience, skills, environment, reputation and market development at home and overseas, Defra explained.

Maintaining the statutory levy has been recommended, as the majority of respondents felt this should continue to support collective endeavours, such as market access, research and development and technical advice.

The option of exploring a new governance structure has also been urged, to facilitate cross-sector working and break down communication barriers between different parts of the organisation.

Responding to the government's recommendations, Jane King, AHDB CEO, said she welcomes the report amid an 'extraordinary period of change'.

“Under the guidance of our new chairman Nicholas Saphir, we will refocus our efforts in identifying the risks and opportunities that face British farming and growing," she said.

"We will drive market development and support farmers in improving performance. We are committed to being responsive to the needs of our levy-payers by adding real value where it matters and helping make an impact on farm.

"We want to engage farmers, growers and the whole supply chain in designing and shaping our technical programmes going forward.



"We will be making recommendations for changes to our governance structure to ensure that we are leaner and fitter as we face the future."

The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA), however, criticised the AHDB for being 'massively inhibited by poor governance'.

TFA National Chairman, Mark Coulman, said: "Now, more than ever, we need AHDB to be an effective driver of the development of our domestic food and farming industry.”

The group advocates that the number one priority for AHDB should be market development, as it needs to be 'the champion of UK agriculture both at home and abroad'.

“Much of its work is wrongly targeted on knowledge exchange and standardised business information to the farming industry," Mr Coulman said.

"Instead it should be driving the industry forward in seeking out new markets and improving farm returns from the markets which exist already."