14 March 2022
Only 33 British growers respond to DEFRA consultation
PETITIONERS who called for the demise of the AHDB potato levy have welcomed the Government’s recent response to the consultation, but have said it still leaves some uncertainty and the engagement levels were "abysmal".
Thirty-three (2%) of levy-paying potato growers responded to the Defra-led consultation, which was significantly less than that of the petitioners' own organised survey in 2018. Defra was careful to point out that public consultations are not necessarily representative of of all levy payers.
News that Defra is recommending a zero-rated levy from April 1st 2022 has been welcomed but the response to news that the potato and horticulture sectors will remain in scope of the AHDB Order is more guarded.
In a formal statement, the petitioners state: "We recognise that there were a range of views expressed about horticultural R&D and Defra believes that there may be demand for some people to use the services of AHDB on a voluntary basis. Given that AHDB has already disbanded its horticultural and potatoes infrastructure, this seems unlikely, but we support the principle that growers can choose where to spend their own money on R&D."
Defra stressed that public sector funding through the farm budget in England will not pay for research or other actions that "could reasonably be expected to be funded through levy investment". The campaigners said this was a disappointing response, given the current state of the nation.
"At a time when the world is facing a food crisis, it is regrettable that this government will fund tree planting and re-wilding but will not help improve the efficiency of healthy and sustainable food production," the statement says.