Levy plans a bad deal, says MDC

The Milk Development Council has hit out at the recommendations of the levy board review (News, 18 Nov), claiming that the proposals represent an “exceptionally bad deal for Britain’s dairy farmers”.

The organisation is so far the only main levy body to challenge openly the conclusions of economist Rosemary Radcliffe’s recent review.

Initially the MDC said it welcomed the opportunity presented by the review to increase accountability and efficiency.

But a statement released this week said its farmer-based council members were unanimous that that the recommendations would fail to deliver these.

Under the proposals which have been put forward, responsibility for levy collection would be contracted out to a third party in an attempt to reduce the average costs of collection across the main boards.

But the MDC has said it fears that the appointment of a third party will add to its cost of collection.

Of the five main levy boards the MDC has the lowest levy collection costs – 0.6p/ collected.

The MDC is also concerned that centralisation of “back-office” staff would also see its technical staff absorbed into the new body.

“Under the proposed structure, a new centralised organisation would absorb our Datum economics and Dairy Council nutritional work, forcing less focused rather than sector-specific working,” said MDC chairman Brian Peacock.

Reaction from the other levy bodies has been less forceful.

The British Potato Council said it broadly accepted the recommendations of Rosemary Radcliffe’s review, although it had reservations.

“We support the proposal that back-office services are shared, but if we are going to get benefits and savings, there can’t be half measures.

“From the outset BPC Council members were unanimous in the view that change was only justified if it was going to be decisive and significant,” said BPC chairman David Walker.

The Meat & Livestock Commission, the only body that would cease to exist under the proposals, has, so far, given the recommendations the biggest endorsement.

“It is a well thought-through and thorough report,” said MLC chairman Peter Barr.

“I believe the recommendations could offer us all great opportunities for improved cross-sector co-operation and greater levy-payer involvement,” he added.

The Home-Grown Cereals Authority and Horticultural Development Council declined to comment further until the report has been discussed by their councils.