Levy bodies must be efficient and accountable to levy payers

A six-month review of food and farming’s levy bodies is expected to conclude that they need to be more accountable to levy payers and more efficient.

The independent review, which has been carried out by economist Rosemary Radcliffe, will be published later today (Friday, 11 Nov).

Speaking to Farmers Weekly ahead of today’s announcement, Ms Radcliffe denied rumours that she had recommended cutting the number of levy bodies from five to form a merged group of three.

Instead she had put forward suggestions where structural changes and efficiencies could be made within the existing groups.

The bodies involved are the British Potato Council, Home-Grown Cereals Authority, Horticultural Development Council, Meat and Livestock Commission, and the Milk Development Council.

“Overall the bodies will be made more accountable to the levy payer,” she said. “I’m sure that will be welcomed by farmers.

But I’m sure some people within the bodies will not welcome some of the changes I have recommended.”

A spokesman for the Meat and Livestock Commission said Ms Radcliffe had always made it clear she intended to start with a “clean sheet of paper”.

“We expect her to have taken a long hard look at why we exist, how we are structured and what shape we should be in.
“We are not expecting the status quo to remain.”

Another of the rumours that has been circulating is that the review will recommend levy contributions are made voluntary. British farmers currently pay about 50m/yr in compulsory levies.

The money is used to pay to promote each sector’s produce, fund research and development, collect and disseminate market information and carry out other coordinating activities.

For full details and an analysis of the review see next week’s Farmers Weekly.