Following consultation in November last year, the UK Government and Devolved Governments of Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland have today (8 March 2022) announced the end of the statutory levy for the agriculture and potato sectors in Great Britain from April 2022. This will end the ‘one size fits all’ approach to these levies.
The response to the consultation will help deliver a reformed Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), and enhance accountability and value for money for farmers across the UK.
Having considered the range of views, the UK Government and Devolved Governments have also announced a new regular vote for levy payers in other sectors across Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland will be implemented from April 2022. This is an important opportunity for levy payers to influence how their money is spent, and to ensure the organisation is focussed on delivering sectors’ priorities. Levy payers will need to register to vote with the AHDB before the 31st March.
The AHDB, an arms-length body of Defra, was established in 2008 to help farmers improve their performance and drive growth through research, knowledge exchange, improving market access and marketing activities.
In a joint statement, UK Government and Devolved Government Ministers said: “We have committed to a reformed AHDB, one that works for all of its levy payers. This response is testament to our endeavour to deliver a more efficient organisation, and better value for money for farmers and growers across the whole of the UK.
“We trust that a reformed and more accountable AHDB will be effective in supporting the delivery of our shared ambitions for a sustainable and competitive agriculture sector, and will help farmers identify innovative ways to reduce carbon emissions, improve productivity, as well as confidence in exploring new market opportunities.”
The consultation revealed that growers from some horticulture subsectors – including soft fruits, tree fruit and mushrooms – would welcome an industry-led levy to continue to fund important research & development and crop protection activities. The UK Government and Devolved Governments will engage in discussions with industry groups and trade bodies to explore the potential for these industry-led funding options in future.
Feedback from the consultation also indicated the horticulture sector in Great Britain wishes to continue to pay for services to help businesses obtain authorisations for the use of pesticides. Therefore, the AHDB will use funding from reserves to deliver these services until April 2023. A longer term approach will be agreed with industry-led groups and trade bodies in due course.
These changes establish the legislative foundations for a reformed and more effective organisation, and sit alongside changes already made to improve AHDB’s governance and cost effectiveness focusing on delivering value for money for levy payers. A reformed AHDB will support farmers to meet the challenges and opportunities of reducing carbon emissions, engaging in environmental land management, and improving productivity and competitiveness domestically as well as on the international market.