The UK Horticulture & Potatoes Future Statutory Levy Working Group has been established voluntarily by concerned statutory levy payers from within the UK Horticulture and Potato sectors, to work together for the benefit of all levy paying businesses.
Following the recent publication of the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board Strategy the Levy Working Group is seeking wider reforms, that will go further and faster than those presented by AHDB Chairman Nicholas Saphir with additional timelines on delivery of real and measurable return on levy payer investment.
"The AHDB administered statutory levy for Horticulture is currently under review and a levy payer vote on the future of these payments underway. A similar vote on the future of the Potato levy will follow shortly. The ‘Future Statutory Levy Working Group’ offers horticulture & potato levy payers an alternative route to delivery of real and lasting change and measurable returns on that investment and invites levy payers of all sizes to join us in achieving this important reform agenda," they say.
The Horticulture & Potatoes Future Statutory Levy Working Group has been established voluntarily by a wide range of concerned businesses from within the UK Horticulture and Potato sectors to work together for the benefit of all levy paying businesses.
"We believe in the fairness and value of a statutory levy and that our industry should work collaboratively to achieve market-led innovation, near market applied R&D, increased productivity and a world class sustainable industry," they say. The Group presents considered alternatives and draws inspiration from the successful levy models established in Australia and New Zealand.
The Group is developing a workable alternative to the current model, aiming to deliver better value for money and organisational and financial transparency for levy paying businesses and would welcome engagement with and contributions to this process from other levy payers. "We have been in conversation with senior members of AHDB, including Chairman Nicholas Saphir, and commend the changes he is trying to make, especially the introduction of an automatic 5 yearly ballot. It is our belief that the proposed changes need to go further and faster," they say.
"Levy payers must ‘take back control’ of their investment funds and provide the strategic leadership within a lean and agile decision-making framework. The levy organisation should work to support this."
They say this will be achieved through:
- Root and branch reform of the existing levy organisation for Horticulture and Potatoes
- All levies raised, budgets and costs should be transparent to levy payers, regularly scrutinised and subject to Panel and Sector Board approval
- Overhaul of the governance of the existing levy organisation which should include a review of the Radcliffe Report and the previous constitutions of HDC and a commitment to a Sector Board and Panels for Horticulture
- More focus on levy funded near market R&D, supported by leveraged funding for strategic and fundamental science
- R&D reports online should be more easily accessible to all levy payers
- Market development should be nuanced after Panel consultation and only implemented for those sectors where it is required
- Co-funding mechanisms must be introduced and encouraged to secure additional funding from the whole supply chain, government and research bodies. This will require entrepreneurism to leverage these funding sources to complement and magnify levy payers’ funds
Aspects which will require a change in the Statutory Instrument:
- Levy is grower ‘investment’ not public money
- The levy collection and deduction system should reflect modern practices
- Levy paying members should nominate or elect their “Board” and “Panel” representatives ensuring accountability, budget control and sound strategy. They should not be appointed
- Levy payments should receive R&D tax relief / credits in line with private investment
"The outcome of the changes being proposed will be a grower-led levy body serving levy payers through proper governance and transparency," the team continues. "This will deliver a world leading, investor funded service which returns significant and measurable benefits to levy paying investors in a highly challenging and fast evolving primary food and plant production landscape."