Boards more accountable, says author

“From my meetings with farmers’ groups and with individual levy payers it was clear that there was large support for the statutory levy to remain.

However, it was the role of the levy boards that most felt should be changed.

“The current arrangements mean that it would be difficult to say that all the levy boards are spending each and every pound as well as they could. The creation of NewCo should improve this.

“I did consider making the levies voluntary, but a high number of ‘free-riders’ could represent a serious threat to the future of the levy bodies and there would be little gain under State Aids rules.

For example, you still wouldn’t be able to promote ‘British potatoes’ simply because they’re British – that breaks EU law.

“Besides, generic advertising campaigns provide a poor return for levy payers’ money.

“I also considered merging some or all of the levy bodies, but none of the merger options met my criteria. In doing so you subtly run the risk of them losing focus; they do very well at concentrating on what the levypayers want and need.”