AHDB pledges to deliver better value for farmers

Farmers are to have a proper say in how their money is spent, as the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board (AHDB) seeks to offer farmers better value for money.

“The organisation has been through some tough times – and we’re not completely out of it,” said chief executive Tim Rycroft, who took up the reins at the AHDB this summer – just months after growers voted to abolish compulsory levies on potatoes and horticulture.

See also: AHDB refuses to release annual Red Tractor payment

Ballots next spring will let farmers decide how their levies will be spent in the red meat, cereals, dairy and pork sectors, and the intervening months will be spent identifying eligible farmers and encouraging them to register to vote.

“When I arrived in the job it was a bit of a surprise to discover that we don’t know who our levy payers are in those four sectors,” Mr Rycroft told Farmers Weekly. “That’s because the levy is typically collected by processors further up the supply chain.

“We’ll be doing a massive communication campaign designed to raise awareness of the fact that there will be a vote and that people should register if they want to help shape the future of their sector and the future of farming.”

Tim Rycroft

Tim Rycroft © AHDB

Mr Rycroft was speaking as it emerged that the AHDB had already withheld funding from the Red Tractor assurance scheme. It was important to ensure any expenditure was carefully allocated before it was committed, he added.

Sense of direction

“We’re having a conversation with Red Tractor about its future and five-year plan,” he said. “We want to be clear about its sense of direction and where it is going – because that’s important to our levy payers.”

The ballots will see farmers asked to rank their priorities for AHDB expenditure within their sector. The findings will be used to help decide the levy rate for each sector and which products, tools and services should be funded.

Each ballot will allow every member one vote. But results will also be weighted according to the size of each farm business – so the AHDB can take into account the dynamics and structure of each sector.

It was important that the AHDB was delivering the sort of service that levy payers wanted, said Mr Rycroft. “In the end, we have to be in a position where people feel they’ve had their say and that we’ve listened,” he said.

See more