ALMOST two thirds of qualifying levy payers within the UK horticultural industry, have voted against the statutory levy used to fund the AHDB in the official ballot which ended last week. A separate ballot on the continuation of the statutory levy for potatoes is ongoing.
Those who petitioned for the ballot say the result comes as no surprise and have spoken out against what they describe as an attempt by AHDB Chair Nicholas Saphir to "change the rules" by suggesting the result should take account of the amount of levy paid, instead of 'one business, one vote'.
Following the outcome, Nicholas Saphir said: “The voting information reported by UK Engage shows different sentiment across different crop sectors and size of business – it is really a very complex picture. It is now down to Ministers to weigh up all the various factors about GB horticulture and make a decision on the future role of a horticulture levy.”
Vegetable grower Peter Thorold said: “Contrary to the picture that Mr Saphir is trying to paint, this is not a complex interpretation – merely an assault on the democratic premise of one person, one vote.”
The petitioners say that if the result of the ballot is 'skewed' it will also affect the current ballot on the continuation of the statutory levy for potatoes.
Vegetable and Potato grower John Bratley said around 1,500 growers had voted against the levy and should not have the value of their votes queried because their payments are lower than that of larger growers.
The petitioners also called on the NFU to pledge its support for the 'one business, one vote' basis of the current AHDB ballots.
The ballot process, laid out in Statute, means that a ballot is held in order to inform Ministers how the industry feels on the value of a statutory levy. The outturn of the ballot must be passed to Defra Ministers and the Devolved Administrations to then make a decision on the future, however they are not bound by the ballot.
Farming Minister Victoria Prentis said: “We will now take these results and scrutinise them closely before making a decision on the future of the horticulture levy in due course.”