Many growers 'feel disengaged' with AHDB Horticulture, NFU says

61% of respondents to the AHDB Horticulture levy ballot voted to discontinue the levy
61% of respondents to the AHDB Horticulture levy ballot voted to discontinue the levy

Many growers feel 'disappointed or disengaged' with how their AHDB Horticulture levy is being spent, the NFU has said.

A majority of growers have voted against the continuation of AHDB's statutory horticulture levy, casting further doubt on its future.

The ballot looked at the future existence of AHDB Horticulture and the work it sets out to deliver on behalf of UK growers.

It asked levy payers: 'Do you agree that the statutory horticulture levy should continue?', offering a simple 'yes' or 'no' answer.

The overall voter turnout was 69 percent. By individual votes cast, the No vote was 61% versus the Yes vote of 39%.

Responding to the outcome, the NFU said the results showed that growers felt 'disappointed or disengaged' with AHDB Horticulture.

However, the union said it was a disappointing result for those that saw the importance in the principle of a statutory levy.

NFU horticulture and potatoes board chairman, Ali Capper said: “It will also be a disappointing result for those that see the the value that applied research and development can deliver for their businesses.

“A number of businesses have come out in support of the statutory levy in the past few weeks, albeit with necessary reforms of AHDB."

While the majority of levy payers voted to discontinue the levy, voting analysis by independent company UK Engage showed a 57% Yes vote versus a 43% No vote on value of levy paid.

Ms Capper said this result was notable: “This shows just how divided levy payers have become and makes it critically important that Ministers consider carefully how to respect all sides of the debate.

“It is important that the business innovation that comes from research and development programmes and the business critical work on plant protection products are not removed where there remains a need.

“While Ministers are not bound by the vote, I would urge them to engage carefully with levy payers before reaching a decision on the next steps.”

The outturn of the ballot will now be passed on to Defra Ministers and the devolved governments, who will then make a decision on the future.

They are not bound by the ballot.