You back the levy bodies – but only just

A survey of Farmers Weekly readers shows a majority is in favour of the continuation of the levy bodies, although significant numbers do think they should be disbanded.

More than 270 people responded to FW’s online survey, designed around the questions in a government consultation which closes today (Friday, 3 February).

The consultation was produced in response to an independent report by economist Rosemary Radcliffe which concluded changes were needed to make the levy bodies more effective, cost-efficient and accountable to levy payers.

The survey results have been passed on to DEFRA to make sure that farmers’ views are fed into its decision-making process.

Over 60% of the people who completed the survey said it was the first time they had contributed to a government consultation.

Asked whether each of the levy bodies should be wound up or continue, a majority of the 274 respondents said they should continue.

But the results were close in some instances.

For example, only 52% of respondents said they thought the British Potato Council should continue and the Horticultural Development Council had the support of just 58% of respondents.

The other organisations did have the backing of more farmers – 64% voted for the continuation of the Home-Grown Cereals Authority, 62% for the Milk Development Council and 65% for the Meat and Livestock Commission.

But these results can also be interpreted as meaning that over a third of producers would like to see the MLC, MDC and HGCA wound up and closer to half would like to see an end to the BPC.

Comments submitted by some of the farmers certainly confirmed that there is plenty of dissatisfaction with the way levies are spent.

Although two-thirds of respondents said statutory levies should continue, a significant number indicated that they felt they did not get value for money.

Almost 70% said they were against the introduction of a new overseeing organisation being formed to collect levies and oversee the work of the individual sector bodies.

The main fear was that it would introduce more bureaucracy without bringing any tangible benefits to producers.

On the issue of how levies should be calculated, less than one-fifth (18%) of respondents agreed with Ms Radcliffe’s view that all sectors should move to value-based arrangements.

Over half (53%) said levies in the potato, meat and cereals sector should be calculated by volume of produce and 18% said levies should be based on the amount of land farmed.