The consultation, collated by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, Welsh Government, The Scottish Government, and Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (Northern Ireland), sought industry views on the levy paying system.
There were 901 responses; 881 to the survey, 20 written responses (that did not follow the survey format) and from three regional stakeholder events. The majority of respondents (84%) were from England. Of the meat-related respondents, 28% were levy payers in the beef sector, 25% in the lamb sector and 9% in the pork sector.
The report found that when asked about their current overall view of AHDB, the participants’ responses were mixed with 43% of participants having a positive view, 36% having a negative view and 20% selecting ‘Neither positive nor negative’.
Almost two-thirds (64%) agreed that AHDB should continue to operate a statutory levy to undertake activities in their sectors. However, the government felt that a ballot of levy payers every five years would provide industry with greater ownership of the institution.
Despite the positive view of AHDB, almost half (47%) of respondents expressed dissatisfaction with the board, sector board and committee structure, and their ability to serve levy payers. Just 24% said it served levy payers well.
Reasons for this result included AHDB board being seen as out of touch with levy payers and needs to be representative of levy payers while many other respondents would like AHDB to be more transparent and accountable to levy payers.
The report offered up recommendations about the structure of the AHDB. “AHDB has made good progress to ensure it works in a more joined-up fashion and to reduce duplication among the sectors through the consolidation into a single Board. However, there is still a tendency for sectors to work in silos and I have concluded that we should offer greater clarity about those areas of work which should be part of a single, central entity and those areas which are rightly sector-specific.”
On its priorities, it was stressed that AHDB will need to deliver against two key priorities: market development and improving farm performance, particularly now that the UK has left the European Union.
The report also stated that a lot of respondents felt one of AHDB’s priorities moving forward should be informing the public and improving the reputation of the farming industry and to defend the farming industry from scrutiny, misinformation in the press and react to changing attitudes to food consumption.
One area of AHDB that came under fire was communication. It stated that “many said that AHDB’s communication service needs to be more effective, of better quality and there should be less of it”. “A few respondents suggested that AHDB’s communication service should become better focused and target the right people.”
Many respondents from the red meat sector suggested that poultry be included into the system to aid a partnership approach.
Praise was also offered up for AHDB’s work in export development, particularly in the red meat sector.
AHDB CEO Jane King welcomed the findings of the report.
“The AHDB team is heartened by the industry’s general endorsement for the continuation of the levy, once again proving we have a vital role to play in supporting farmers, growers and processors in a rapidly changing world. I believe the role of AHDB has never been more important.
“Under the guidance of our new chairman Nicholas Saphir, we will refocus our efforts in identifying the risks and opportunities that face British farming and growing. We will drive market development and support farmers in improving performance. We are committed to being responsive to the needs of our levy-payers by adding real value where it matters and helping make an impact on farm. We want to engage farmers, growers and the whole supply chain in designing and shaping our technical programmes going forward. We will be making recommendations for changes to our governance structure to ensure that we are leaner and fitter as we face the future.
“AHDB believes in uniting with others to build a world class British industry and we are determined to work smartly and efficiently in harnessing our strong, independent evidence base to achieve it. I look forward to working with AHDB colleagues and industry partners in bringing these goals to life at a time when change and volatility will produce risks but also provide real opportunities.”