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Ballot shines spotlight on AHDB’s investment in horticulture

Ruth Ashfield, Strategy Director for Horticulture at AHDB, has received the formal request for a ballot from horticulture levy payers in line with the process set out in statute.

Following receipt of the requests for a ballot, AHDB is required to validate that each one has come from a levy payer that has paid levy within the previous 12 months. If there are the required number of valid requests for a ballot, AHDB will set in motion the process to run a ballot, including procuring an independent company to administer the ballot itself. 

The AHDB Horticulture board and colleagues at AHDB welcomed the opportunity for an open debate on the important role of the levy collected from growers. This funding is the backbone of horticultural applied research and development to address crop protection, labour, resource use and technical innovation.

“The body of work undertaken by AHDB for horticulture is wide-ranging and we will be using this opportunity to showcase to levy payers, and the wider industry, the value we add and the services we offer,” said Ruth.

“However, we need to be clear this ballot is about the future of AHDB Horticulture. It is not about looking at updating the way levy is collected or how the levy spend is allocated. It is not about reform under the request for views commitments. It is about whether AHDB will continue to provide a statutory levy-funded service to horticulture growers or not. That is the only question allowed in this ballot under current regulations.

“All other discussions, like how we can get growers more involved or whether there could be a voluntary levy or a vote every five years on what we do, form no part of this discussion.”

Ruth pointed at the key services currently offered and the ongoing liaison on improving efficiency and engagement for growers. She remains confident the majority of farmers and growers believe there is a clear role for a levy-funded organisation, and the five reforms recently committed to by AHDB will make it even stronger and better equipped to drive the industry forward.

At a time when the horticulture industry faces unprecedented challenges and changes, our investment in applied research on crop protection, emergency chemical approvals and driving labour efficiency is more important than ever.

Ruth added: “We appreciate that not everyone likes everything we do, but most horticulture businesses, particularly those who engage with us, do value the essential grower-led research programmes. Under the simple ballot question, triggered by the delivery of the petition today, those benefits could be lost to all.

“We would rather work with industry to enhance our offering, modernise the way levy is collected and continue to work with growers to improve efficiency and profitability in this important sector.”

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