Levy payers pleased with ‘value for money’ as AHDB freezes rates

Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) levy payers feel they are getting value for money after learning they will pay the same rates for a further year.

The AHDB levy board included a recommendation to hold rates at the same level in its 2014/17 Corporate Plan, and this proposal to freeze them was agreed by ministers last week.

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

“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.”

AHDB’s forecast total net levy for 2014/15 amounts to around £56 million (m), which is supplemented by around £3m in grants and other income. Net income from beef and lamb levies alone is expected to be just over £15m, with £8.8m from the pig sector.

Norman Bagley, policy director at the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS), said: “The freeze is an indication that they are giving what levy payers consider to be good value for money – that’s very welcome.

“Bodies like Eblex are becoming much more market-oriented and more responsive to levy demands. They are now helping processors to make a difference to their returns.”

The AHDB laid out a number of strategic priorities in its aforementioned 2014/17 Corporate Plan, which it believes it can carry out on current levy income. The priorities are to help levy payers improve productivity and cost management, prevent and manage disease and deliver market development, among others.

Like AIMS, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) is pleased that its members will pay the same rates. NFU head of food and farming Phil Hudson said: “The NFU supported the recommendation for a levy freeze that appears in the board’s draft corporate plan for 2014-17.

“The AHDB continues to focus on providing value for money for levy payers and cutting costs – we believe they will be able to continue to provide the services that farmers want from them going forward, with the issue of levy rates kept under review.”
 
The AHDB Corporate Business Plan 2014-2017 is available to download at www.ahdb.org.uk

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