20 July 2020
"AHDB grower ballot attracts unprecedented interest"
More than 2,000 ballot papers have now been sent out looking to obtain views on the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).
The ballot organised by three Lincolnshire growers was sent out at the start of July to 1,600 horticultural businesses and potato growers. Since the initial distribution, a further 400 ballot papers have been sent and more have been requested by growers.
The ballot was organised by growers of potatoes, vegetables and flowers, after a Government call for views on AHDB in 2018 received responses from less than 0.5% of levy-payers. The growers say that the results of this survey do not provide a mandate to keep the Statutory Levy which funds AHDB, and that low margins in the industry, together with the current crisis, mean that the funding mechanism has to change.
The ballot company has already received around a quarter of the ballot papers wsent out.
One of the organisers, vegetable and potato producer Peter Thorold, said: “The response so far has been tremendous and there has been a lot of interest from the media. The polling company has been receiving up to 70 completed ballot papers daily.”
Fellow organiser John Bratley said: “Despite a Freedom of Information request, AHDB did not release all levy-payer’s names. This means AHDB have denied smaller independent levy payers an opportunity to have a vote, something which is very damaging for the industry. If AHDB are confident that they have the overwhelming support of growers, and provide true value to levy payers, they would welcome the feedback from all those who are currently fund them?"
The AHDB has stated that it welcomes all feedback from growers, and does not stand in the way of ballots. It also stressed that it actively works with growers to improve its services, as well as solutions and knowledge-sharing to help the industry as a whole.
AHDB Potato Strategy Director Rob Clayton told Potato Review: “These are difficult times and there are several challenges in agriculture. Indeed, AHDB work closely with organisations like NFU, NFUS, BTPA and the growers on our board to put together support, tools and resources for growers dealing with changes to their business due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
"We also know the closer farm businesses work with us the more benefit and value derived from the work. There are many initiatives we are passionate about from which potato growers gain knowledge and insight to help make informed decisions and their businesses sustainable. Guiding growers through Brexit-related challenges and more recently Covid-19, means that those engaged gain real information to use on a day-to-day basis.
"Feedback from many potato growers is positive particularly on areas such as sprout suppression and alternatives to CIPC, the area that benefits from our most significant investment of levy funds."