Sheep farm leaders have called for a restructure at the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) following votes to ends it horticulture and potato levies.
AHDB collects levies across the UK for the horticulture, potatoes, cereals and dairy sectors. It also collects levies in England for beef, sheep and pigs – these levies are collected by Quality Meat Scotland in Scotland and Meat Promotion Wales/Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC) in Wales.
The organisation is set to lose its income from the horticulture and potatoes sectors following votes on their continuation, which resulted in the majority of growers voting to stop paying a statutory levy.
The National Sheep Association (NSA) is now calling for a “restructure in the governance of AHDB” to protect its sheep levy function in the future.
“NSA is a strong supporter of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board Beef and Lamb and would not want to see the end of the statutory levy in the sheep sector, however it is absolutely critical that AHDB is seen to listen to levy payers,” said NSA chief executive, Phil Stocker.
“I would suggest that now is the time for a restructure in the governance of AHDB to ensure that the relationship and links between the customer and the service provider are as closely aligned as possible.”
He added: “When the time comes around for a ballot on the sheep levy, I do not want to see a situation where our investment in our sector is put at risk, and we need to be taking action now to ensure the majority of our levy payers feel they are being listened to and worked for.”
AHDB chief marketing and communications officer, Christine Watt, said the levy body was heartened to receive support from NSA.
She said collaborative working with levy payers was something AHDB needed to embrace and added: “We committed to this at the end of 2020 and are recruiting more levy payers to the main board, and looking to redesign future sector board structures, with the help of levy payers to be better able to face together challenges and opportunities for British farming.
“Getting farmer, processor and industry input into what work we deliver and what levy rates are needed is crucial for the future.”