A ballot to decide the future of AHDB Horticulture has concluded, with 61% of voters calling for the levy to be discontinued.
The call for a ballot on the continuation of a statutory levy in horticulture came late last year and a yes/no vote started in January, on the basis of one levy payer, one vote.
By individual votes cast, the No vote was 61% versus the Yes vote of 39%. The overall voter turnout was 69%.
An independent company, UK Engage, administered the vote process and an analysis found that for value of levy paid, the result stood at 57% Yes versus 43% No.
AHDB chair, Nicholas Saphir, said: “The voting information reported by UK Engage shows different sentiment across different crop sectors and size of business – it is really a very complex picture.
“It is now down to Ministers to weigh up all the various factors about GB horticulture and make a decision on the future role of a horticulture levy.”
“While the majority of levy payers voted to discontinue the levy, it is notable that when results are weighted by levy contribution there is a majority to continue the levy.”
Responding to the decision, NFU horticulture and potatoes board chairman, Ali Capper, said: “This vote demonstrates that many growers feel either disappointed or disengaged with how their levy is being spent. It will also be a disappointing result for those that see the importance in the principle of a statutory levy and the value that applied research and development can deliver for their businesses.
“A number of businesses have come out in support of the statutory levy in the past few weeks, albeit with necessary reforms of AHDB. While the majority of levy payers voted to discontinue the levy, it is notable that when results are weighted by levy contribution there is a majority to continue the levy.
“This shows just how divided levy payers have become and makes it critically important that Ministers consider carefully how to respect all sides of the debate.
“It is important that the business innovation that comes from research and development programmes and the business critical work on plant protection products are not removed where there remains a need.
“While Ministers are not bound by the vote, I would urge them to engage carefully with levy payers before reaching a decision on the next steps.”