Ballot to decide future of AHDB horticulture levy

Left to right: Ruth Ashfield, John Bratley, Peter Thorold and Simon Redden

Left to right: Ruth Ashfield, John Bratley, Peter Thorold and Simon Redden © AHDB

Horticulture growers are to be given the opportunity to vote on the future of the statutory levy and whether it should continue, the AHDB has announced.

AHDB strategy director for horticulture Ruth Ashfield confirmed the formal request for a ballot from levy payers on Tuesday (29 September).

It was delivered by flower grower Simon Redden, and potato/vegetable producers Peter Thorold and John Bratley, who believe the time has come for a fresh ballot on the future running of the board.

See also: AHDB to hold regular ballot on how levies are paid and spent

The trio have questioned whether the AHDB should retain its legal powers to collect a compulsory levy based on the turnover of their businesses.

The AHDB must now validate the requests for a ballot to ensure each one has come from a levy payer that has paid levy within the past 12 months, which will then begin the ballot process.

However, the AHDB said an impending ballot on the future of a statutory levy in horticulture was the “perfect opportunity” to demonstrate its support for growers.

Ms Ashfield said: “We need to be clear this ballot is about the future of AHDB Horticulture.

“It is not about looking at updating the way levy is collected or how the levy spend is allocated. It is not about reform under the request for views commitments.

“It is about whether AHDB will continue to provide a statutory levy-funded service to horticulture growers or not. That is the only question allowed in this ballot under current regulations.”

Open debate

The AHDB Horticulture board said it welcomed the opportunity for open debate on the “important role of the levy” collected from growers, highlighting the current investment in research on crop protection, emergency chemical approvals and labour efficiency.

Ms Ashfield added: “Under the simple ballot question, triggered by the delivery of the petition today, those benefits could be lost to all.

“We would rather work with industry to enhance our offering, modernise the way levy is collected and continue to work with growers to improve efficiency and profitability in this important sector.”

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