Farmers are being invited to have their say on major changes planned for the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.
A proposed five-year strategy for the organisation – focused on delivering better value for levy-payers – was published by the AHDB on Monday (7 December).
See also: AHDB to hold regular ballot on levies
Plans include improving the way the AHDB works with farmers, more emphasis on marketing British farm produce, and harnessing data.
The AHDB proposes to:
- give farmers greater say on AHDB priorities
- give farmers more say on levy rates and spending
- hold a ballot every five years on the future of the levy.
The five-year strategy follows a government review of AHDB activity and calls for the organisation to be more relevant to farmers’ needs.
AHDB chairman Nicholas Saphir said the organisation recognised times were challenging and AHDB work programmes needed to be fit for purpose.
“We fully recognise there are genuine differences between challenges facing sectors, crops and species and that one size of offering does not fit all,” he said.
“Levies in the future must be set to reflect the value provided and work priorities clearly agreed with levy payers.”
Responding to the proposed five-year strategy, NFU president Minette Batters said the union had called for a strong focus on food advocacy, farm business performance and technical advice.
“AHDB has clearly listened to the industry, and its proposals to improve transparency and governance will be welcome news for many farmers and growers,” she said.
“This consultation comes at a challenging time as our sector faces significant uncertainty in the coming weeks and years.”
Mrs Batters said it was crucial that the AHDB offered excellent value for levy investment, alongside greater agility and accountability as farmers and growers met the challenge of sustainable food production.
The NFU would be examining the strategy in greater detail, she added.
“There are still areas that are not altogether clear, such as how outcomes of levy investment will be measured. We will continue to work with our members to put forward their views during the consultation period.”
‘What works’ on farm
The strategy says it is key that all AHDB’s work is underpinned by evidence, facts, insight and data – from “what works” on farm to where opportunities exist for British produce.
A new AHDB Evidence For Farming initiative will support agricultural innovation, with a focus on the impact on business profitability of applying environmental measures.
The strategy says AHDB’s future marketing work will continue to champion the reputation of British food and farming – at home and abroad.
Marketing campaigns will focus on health, nutrition and the environment so consumers continue to purchase and enjoy meat, dairy and potatoes, as part of a balanced diet.
The first key campaign in this area will launch in January 2021.
In terms of exports, the AHDB plans to boost its activity, opening up new export markets for British produce in countries such as Japan, China, the US and the Middle East.
It says work will also continue in building opportunities in the wake of exiting the EU, both in existing markets and through new international trade deals.
The full AHDB strategy and proposed sector plans are published for consultation and can be found online at ahdb.org.uk/strategy.
The closing date for feedback is 31 January 2021.
Levy board has ‘vital’ role – chairman
The AHDB says it accepts major changes are needed to deliver a better deal for growers and livestock producers – but insists the organisation still has a vital role in helping farmers meet the challenges they face.
AHDB chairman Nicholas Saphir said those challenges include Brexit, new international trading arrangements, environmental and sustainability concerns, changes to UK farm policy, and significant shifts in consumer behaviour.
Mr Saphir said the AHDB recognises there are genuine differences between the challenges facing different farm sectors. Levy payers have different requirements for research, marketing, exports or analysis, he added.
“One size does not fit all, and levies must be set to reflect the value provided. Against this background, AHDB’s strategy lays out how we will improve levy payer engagement, reduce bureaucracy, focus our activities and reduce costs.”
The AHDB will also be keen to show that it remains relevant to farmers – including horticultural growers. A ballot on the future of AHDB Horticulture will take place in January after growers said it fails to deliver value for money.