Defra Secretary George Eustice has promised to ‘respect the result’ of the AHDB horticulture ballot and remove the current mandatory turnover levy.
But Mr Eustice also said the Government was exploring a range of different options to ensure the elements of AHDB work which are valued by growers could continue in the future.
He suggested it may be possible to ask growers to subscribe to AHDB in order to get access to emergency authorisations and claimed there could be a convening role for AHDB to bring together sectors to do research and development.
This month, 61 per cent of respondents to the ballot voted to discontinue the levy, but growers accused AHDB chairman Nicholas Saphir of ‘moving the goalposts’ after he pointed out the vote by value of levy paid showed a reverse picture of 57 per cent in support of continuation.
“We will be taking a swift decision on the AHDB ballot and saying a bit more about this in the coming weeks,” Mr Eustice told the NFU online conference.
“It is pretty clear there is a very straight result. Some of the larger horticultural producers were more supportive of maintaining the current turnover levy, but there was a clear majority against, so we will respect the outcome of that ballot.”
The Defra Secretary went on to say he was planning to speak to Mr Saphir about a timetable for other sectors to have a ballot on their levy.
“The potato ballot will obviously come first,” he said.
“Like horticulture, they have brought together a caucus of people who want to force such a ballot and for it to happen soon, but for all of the other sectors, they will also get a ballot and we will be discussing the timetable for that with AHDB.”