Questions over AHDB levy powers

Only a day after the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board (AHDB) released a consultation on its role over the next five years, a second sector request was lodged.

It is for a producer ballot on its continued operation and levy gathering powers – this time in the potato sector.

The call was lodged earlier this week by large-scale English growers who presented a petition signed by almost 200 growers - and follows a similar exercise by the horticultural sector, which will see a ballot on the board’s future in that segment take place at the end of January.

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The AHDB said the latest petition would need to be validated to ensure the threshold of 103 names of businesses who had paid levy in the past 12 months had been reached before a formal ballot process was triggered

However, speaking hard on the heels of releasing the organisation’s new five-year strategy proposals, AHDB chair, Nicholas Saphir warned that the ballot should not be viewed as a means for expressing discontent with the way levy was collected or spent or how AHDB operated.

“It is solely about whether AHDB will continue to deliver statutory levy-funded services and products to the potatoes sector or not.”

He said if this stopped, producers would lose the benefits of collective research and development into key areas benefiting the sector.

But Saphir added that producers could have a direct say on the board’s activities, how much levy was collected and how it was spent in the newly released consultation.