AHDB has committed to holding regular ballots on sector levies and how they are spent as part of its response to the Government’s review on its activities.
The board has also pledged to update the levy calculations for horticulture and potatoes, which are based on business turnover in horticulture and hectares planted in potatoes.
A group of three Lincolnshire growers are set to trigger an official ballot on the future of the levy after gauging views in a private survey.
AHDB chairman Nicholas Saphir said he was ‘aware of the strength of feeling’ in the horticulture and potato sectors and was working with growers to design a more modern system.
But Peter Thorold, who is part of the team working to trigger the official ballot and pays £25-30,000 a year in levies, told Farmers Guardian he had ‘heard it all before’.
“We just want them gone,” he said.
“The Dutch got rid of theirs and they are top of the tree. We do not need these people at all.”
Other industry leaders, however, welcomed AHDB’s renewed focus on market development, which will take centre stage alongside farm performance in the board’s new five-year strategy, due to be published for feedback this autumn.
Bryan Griffiths, chairman of the National Sheep Association (NSA), said he felt strongly that market development and promotion of UK products at home and overseas were key to the sheep sector.
“We are very encouraged they appear to have listened to our concerns,” he said.
“But there is a very clear need to improve connectivity with the levy payer, and step one in this regard for us would be to ensure trade organisations to have a seat on the board, reflecting our link to grassroots producers.”
The structure of AHDB boards and committees will be considered as part of an independent review of governance, with recommendations for change expected by the end of 2020.
Tenant Farmers’ Association (TFA) chief executive George Dunn also welcomed the announcement from AHDB as a ‘step in the right direction’, but he warned levy payers across all sectors felt the board had become out of touch.
He said: “Having set out its stall [in its new strategy], AHDB must be prepared to seek approval for its plans by holding an early ballot of all levy payers.”