12 April 1996

Potato board ballot sparks legal action

By Tony McDougal

THE Potato Marketing Board is facing legal action from one of its own council members over the ballot on the transfer of the boards residual funds and the setting up of a Great Britain Potato Organisation.

Tony Strawson, director of Notts-based CA Strawson Farming, is threatening court action against the PMB under the 1993 Agriculture Act unless it abandons the ballot by Fri, Apr 12. Mr Strawson is complaining about the discrepancies in the ballot form, which allows producers to determine the number of votes they have to cast.

The legal challenge shocked the PMB, which claimed it had conformed to the present legislation, with the ballot conducted by the Electoral Reform Society.

Ballot papers, which have to be returned by Apr 15, sought producers views on the transfer of the PMBs residual funds after the board is abolished in June 1997.

The number of votes potato producers have to cast in the ballot is proportionate to the amount of land they have under potatoes. But if producers fail to declare on the ballot the amount of land which was under potatoes on Jun 1, 1995, the boards own figures will be used.

Mr Strawson claimed the voting procedure would be distorted, being based on assumed rather than actual figures.

He is firmly opposed to the need for a successor body to the PMB, believing the NFU could adequately represent the interests of potato growers.

"I feel surplus funds should be returned to growers and do not see the need for a successor authority to the PMB, particularly of the size proposed," said Mr Strawson.

"I believe growers should have the freedom to spend their resources on services which are specifically geared to their own circumstances." &#42