UK horticultural growers are to be given a formal ballot on the continuation of a statutory levy in horticulture, AHDB has announced.
107 formal requests for a ballot on the continuation of the AHDB Horticulture levy were officially handed to Ruth Ashfield, Strategy Director of AHDB Horticulture, on Tuesday (28 September).
AHDB is now required to validate that each one has come from a levy payer that has paid levy within the previous 12 months.
If there are the required number of valid requests, the organisation will set in motion the process to run a ballot, including procuring an independent company to administer the ballot itself.
The AHDB Horticulture board said it welcomed the opportunity for an 'open debate' on the role of the levy collected from growers.
Ruth Ashfield said the ballot was about the future of AHDB Horticulture, not about looking at updating the way levy was collected or how the levy spend was allocated.
"It is not about reform under the request for views commitments," she added, "It is about whether AHDB will continue to provide a statutory levy-funded service to horticulture growers or not.
"That is the only question allowed in this ballot under current regulations."
She added: “All other discussions, like how we can get growers more involved or whether there could be a voluntary levy or a vote every five years on what we do, form no part of this discussion.”
Ms Ashfield pointed at the services currently offered and the ongoing liaison on improving efficiency and engagement for growers.
She said growers' funding was used for horticultural applied research and development to address crop protection, labour, resource use and technical innovation.
Ms Ashfield added: “We appreciate not everyone likes everything we do, but most horticulture businesses, particularly those who engage with us, do value the essential grower-led research programmes.
"Under the simple ballot question, triggered by the delivery of the petition today, those benefits could be lost to all."
Vegetable grower and ballot co-organiser Peter Thorold delivered the requests for a ballot to Ms Ashfield.
He said: “Over the last six months AHDB have repeatedly said that if growers feel strongly enough about the levy, they should use the existing legal procedures to trigger a formal ballot on the continuation of a compulsory levy, so with the mandate that we received from our survey, that is what we have now done.
"We fully expect a fairly conducted AHDB ballot to endorse our findings.”