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Farmers warn AHDB to use ballot results as a wake up call

Sheep and dairy producers have called for change

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Farmers warn AHDB to use ballot results as a wake up call

Results of the ballots in horticulture and potatoes must act as a wake-up call to AHDB to listen to its levy payers or it will face the same result across all sectors.

That was the warning from sheep farmers who have been calling for AHDB to reform for several years.

Devon farmer Colin Rowland said he was a great supporter of AHDB, but the result was unsurprising as the levy board had not paid enough attention to what levy payers wanted.

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He said: “If they do not listen now, sooner or later it will all come to an end.”

He added the sheep sector did need AHDB, particularly in opening new markets abroad.

However, he felt it had spent too much time telling the industry how to produce lamb at a lower cost.

Devon farmer Bryan Griffiths said the board needed to be more connected with farmers.

“I do hope it is a wake-up call. It would be a disaster to do away with it,” he said.

Both Mr Rowland and Mr Griffiths pointed to New Zealand Beef and Lamb as an exemplar.

Mr Rowland said: “They run their operation with probably between 14 and 18 people in an office in New Zealand and 300-400 people all around the world.”

Dairy analyst and Dairy Farmer columnist Ian Potter said if AHDB Dairy had a producer ballot today it ‘would be a brave person who bet on the outcome’.

He believed it should be a clear ‘yes’, particularly on market intelligence.

But he added the ballot potentially signalled the beginning of the end for AHDB.

“It is not looking good and there are now calls for heads to roll at the top as AHDB faces a crisis,” he said.

He added the spotlight was really on chairman Nicholas Saphir, with major divisions reported in the AHDB board and criticism of Mr Saphir’s leadership style.

Farmers for Action chairman David Handley said they had attempted to hold a ballot on AHDB Dairy eight years ago.

He believed AHDB was unaccountable and farmers should have a right to choose if they want AHDB’s services, suggesting a voluntary levy.

Mr Handley also did not see any value in AHDB’s marketing capacity, claiming a ‘primary school child’ could have produced something more inspiring than the latest advert.

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