An overhaul of the way money is collected and spent by the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board (AHDB) is needed to get away from the “silo mentality” and so deliver better value for money for producers.
According to the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), having a single pot of money from which each sector would have to bid for particular projects would result in a much better use of funds.
“Currently, sector levy funds are ring-fenced, and can only be spent within that individual sector, although there are some cross-sector projects,” says the CLA in its submission to Defra’s consultation on the future of AHDB, which closed on Friday (9 November).
“An alternative would be a new system of competitive bidding between sectors from a single pot.
“Projects most likely to benefit a number of sectors, and have the greatest return on investment, would be most likely to gain approval.”
This would also help resolve other problems such as duplication of work and unhelpful rivalry, which the CLA says stems from the current sector-oriented structure.
The CLA also points to the overlap in work carried out by Hybu Cig Cymru in Wales, Quality Meat Scotland and AHDB Beef & Lamb in England.
While the local provenance provides each with a positive selling point, the CLA believes greater collaboration would limit the repetition of services.
“Consideration of an amalgamated organisation could provide better value for money,” it says.
As for the main work areas it wants to see prioritised, the CLA advocates a greater emphasis on knowledge exchange, farmer-centred research and better communication.
“Too many farmers and growers are unaware of the work the AHDB does and how it can improve their businesses, so external communication needs drastically addressing,” said CLA president Tim Breitmeyer.
The CLA believes less emphasis should be put on consumer marketing activity.
“While popular, it does not offer great value for money,” it says.
What others have said about AHDB
National Sheep Association
The NSA says the sheep sector has not benefited from the previous restructuring of the AHDB, with the merging of HR and IT services diluting the “ownership” among AHDB teams.
In terms of work priorities, it wants to see more on trade, market and product development, and less on research and development.
It wants better representation on the board, with a number of elected levypayers and a formal role for organisations such as the NSA.
Tenant Farmers Association
The TFA says AHDB’s primary task should be securing routes to market, domestically and internationally, with the aim of achieving a fair return for farmers.
Business support services should be focused on enterprises that have been around for less than five years, with longer-standing businesses charged on a cost-recovery basis.
It also wants improved accountability, with more open meetings, greater transparency and levypayers able to vote on the future of AHDB.