Ministers agree to freeze AHDB levy rates for further year

An Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) proposal to freeze levy rates for the second year running has been approved by UK Ministers.

The decision to hold 2014-15 levy rates for all industry sectors at the same level as last year was one of the recommendations made by the levy board in its 2014/17 Corporate Plan. This went to a six-week stakeholder consultation before being formally agreed by Ministers in Defra, Scottish Government, Welsh Government and DARD Northern Ireland prior to last week’s meeting of the AHDB Board.

“The decision not to change levy rates reflects industry concerns caused by one of the most difficult years for farming in over a decade,” said AHDB Chief Executive Tom Taylor.

“It is the Board’s considered view that the forecast levy income, supplemented with reserves where necessary, will be sufficient to fund AHDB’s proposed work programmes for 2014/15,” he added.

The Corporate Plan captures AHDB’s strategic priorities and commitments for the next three years. The business plans of its six operating divisions – covering pigs (BPEX), dairy (DairyCo), beef and lamb (EBLEX), horticulture (HDC), cereals & oilseeds (HGCA) and potatoes (Potato Council) – sit behind the Corporate Plan, giving detail on what will be done to deliver the strategic priorities.

These Corporate Plan strategic priorities are to help levy payers:

Improve productivity and cost management (resource management, climate change, soils and water, managing market volatility)
Prevent and manage disease
Deliver market development (export development, promoting quality products to differentiate against imports, market information and analysis)
Understand and adapt to the regulatory and policy environment
Address labour market issues and skills development.

Recent achievements against these priorities have included:

Delivering access to exciting new export markets – such as pork to Australia; seed potatoes to Vietnam; feed wheat to Morocco; and lamb to Russia. The value of British beef, pork, lamb, seed potato and wheat exports hit £5.5bn in 2013. Also playing a key part in the development of a Government/industry Export Action Plan

Bringing the industry together to get behind a new AgriSkills Strategy, launched last autumn – a key milestone in driving up workforce skills and industry professionalism.

Helping to shape the Government’s breakthrough Agri-Tech Strategy as a lead partner behind the industry report Feeding the Future – Innovation Requirements for Primary Food Production in the UK to 2030. AHDB will increase its own investment in research and development and on-farm knowledge transfer to just over £24m in 2014/15 – a rise of nearly 9% on last year.

The work scheduled to deliver the strategic plan is funded by statutory levies paid by farmers and growers and others in the supply chain. These levy rates must be approved annually by Ministers.

The forecast total net levy for 2014/15 amounts to just over £56m and is supplemented with grants and other income forecast to be in the region of £2.8m. The funds raised from each commodity sector are ring-fenced to ensure they are used to the benefit of the sectors from which they were raised:

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