AHDB has pledged a new strategy and improved communication with levy payers on how their money is spent.
The announcement follows the government’s response to the Request for Views, published earlier this year, and the commitments also include a regular ballot on the AHDB levy and how it is spent, a review of the levy system for potatoes and horticulture, and a review of AHDB’s board and committee structure.
“We have listened carefully to the views expressed by levy payers in response to the government-led Request for Views, and we are now committed to some key reforms to ensure we are fit for purpose in the changing times British agriculture is facing,” said AHDB chair Nicholas Saphir.
“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, as well as ensuring this work is aligned to the new strategy that is being developed.”
Saphir, who was appointed in April 2020, underlined the importance of AHDB’s new five-year strategy, which is being published for feedback this autumn. This will focus on two key areas of market development and farm performance.
“Our fantastic work during Covid 19 showed AHDB is at its very best in responding quickly to the needs of farmers, growers and the supply chain at a time of crisis, and we were able to clearly demonstrate the value we add for our levy payers,' he said.
“This built on the excellent progress we are making with key AHDB programmes, such as our network of hugely popular Monitor and Strategic farms, our work opening up new export markets, promotion of our products at home and overseas, our research work and our highly-regarded market insight, evidence and analysis.
“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 added.
AHDB has committed to a regular ballot on the sector levies and how they are spent, though it stressed the timings and format of any ballot will need to be worked out in detail with Defra, and the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments before being incorporated into the statutory legislation which covers AHDB.
Alongside this, AHDB said it 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. These levy systems predate AHDB’s formation in 2008.
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 AHDB boards and committees, which has been in place since the organisation was founded in 2008. An independent review of governance has already been put in place and will produce recommendations for change by the end of 2020, the organisation said.