Dairy sector needs "much improved" levy board

The Tenant Farmers Association has challenged the performance of the dairy sector’s levy board, AHDB Dairy.

Following a meeting with a representative of the AHDB Dairy board and its new Director, Amanda Ball, TFA National Chairman Stephen Wyrill said “If this was a school inspection our findings would be that AHDB Dairy required improvement and in areas was inadequate. We need to see a much improved board as soon as possible.”

“For a body that has the word development in its name, it is alarming that we have seen little if any strategic input from AHDB Dairy on sector development. It has been particularly impotent through the current dairy crisis and bearing in mind that it is funded to the tune of almost £7 million per year from hard-pressed dairy farmers, it needs to do much better,” said Mr Wyrill.

“Of course in the context of a global downturn in dairy markets, we are not expecting AHDB Dairy to be waving some form of magic wand to improve commodity prices, however legitimate territory within which it should be working includes the development of contracting models, producer organisations and other tools to assist the sector to deal with volatility in the context of a modern, global and more complex trading world. Not that these are the only tools that we need to look at for the development of the sector, but it would certainly be a good place to start,” said Mr Wyrill.

“It is alarming that the board has no sense of cohesion or ownership of a strategy for the dairy sector. It should be engendering a discussion about the vision for the sector and the tools required to deliver it. Issues about new entrants, retirements and performance of the supply chain all need to be considered,” said Mr Wyrill.

“There is no getting away from the fact that promotion has to be part of the forward strategy, despite what DEFRA might say. This is not about a flashy TV advertising campaign but about careful placement of messaging on the health, environmental, animal welfare, rural economic and rural social benefits of consuming milk and getting those stories into the media on a continual basis,” said Mr Wyrill.

“AHDB Dairy would also be in a better position if DEFRA got off its back. DEFRA is providing contrary messages to those coming from dairy farmers. Notwithstanding the fact that we are dealing with a statutory levy, the Board must be properly accountable to the dairy farmers who pay it not Government Ministers,” said Mr Wyrill.

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