Farmers who want to have their say on the final stages of levy body reform have until Friday, 3 February to respond to a consultation on the recommendations of the levy board review.

Levy bodies are funded by 54m of farmers’ money and the call for farmer involvement in the levy board review process was made by junior DEFRA minister Lord Bach after the review recommendations were published last Friday (11 November).

The review recommended that statutory levies should remain, for the next two years at least, but suggested reforming the bodies’ structure in an attempt to make them more effective, cost efficient and more accountable to levypayers.

The crux of the report is a proposal to bring the levy bodies together under a single umbrella body. Rosemary Radcliffe, author of the report and a former chief economist at accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers recommended changing the governance rules of the individual levy boards to allow more levypayers to hold seats on the board.

Under her proposals a levypayer may also be elected chairman of the board, a position currently prohibited under rules requiring the chairman to be an independent.

This umbrella body will take responsibility for planning, performance monitoring and reporting to government, while the levy bodies concentrate on delivering on the wishes of levypayers.

With the exception of the MLC, which would cease to exist as a separate entity, the main levy bodies (BPC, HDC, HGCA and MDC) would continue.

The executive committees of the MLC (BPEX and EBLEX) would continue in their roles, but the overseeing duties currently carried out by the MLC would be subsumed by the new umbrella body.

The livestock boards of the devolved administrations (QMS and HCC) would also continue as now, however, they have the option to join the newly proposed system or remain accountable to the devolved governments.

Other proposed changes include merging office staff into a separate administration body and the appointment of an outside company to collect the levy. The aim is to improve the efficiencies of levy collection costs which currently vary enormously between the bodies.

These changes are expected to save £900K/year.

Those wishing to take part in the consultation should follow the criteria laid out at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/levy-bodies/letter.htm or contact Cathy Miller at DEFRA on cathy.miller@ defra.gsi.gov.uk