Statutory levies are to continue but there will be a shake-up of the agricultural and horticultural levy boards to make them more accountable to farmers.

The government has announced that in April 2008 the current five levy boards will be replaced by one statutory levy board which will be made up of sector specific companies.

There will be six sector specific companies – horticulture, cereals and oilseeds, potatoes, milk, beef and lamb, and pigs.

The new levy board will be made up of the chairs of the six companies plus four independents.

Under the new arrangements levy payers will have the right, in principle, to trigger a vote on the abolition of a levy or sector company.

In a DEFRA statement, junior DEFRA minister Jeff Rooker said that changes were needed to help the industry meet future business challenges.

“The industry has altered radically since the first levy board was established over 40 years ago and the new structure should bring substantial benefits for farmers and growers, including better value for money through improvements in the efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery.”