Call For AHDB Levy Ballot to Represent All Growers
Growers who triggered a formal ballot on the continuation of the AHDB Horticulture statutory levy have warned that postponing the ballot until next year must not be used to disenfranchise growers from the process. AHDB Chair Nicholas Saphir previously said that the AHDB needs to verify who is entitled to vote in January’s ballot, something that has caused unease by those calling for the ballot.
Spalding-based flower grower and co-organizer Simon Redden says: “AHDB has yet to make public who will be eligible to vote. To limit voting to growers who have paid a levy in the twelve months immediately prior to the vote would be grossly unfair given the unprecedented hardships that growers are currently experiencing; all growers registered with the AHDB up until the time of the Defra review in 2018 should be eligible to vote.”
The Chair of the NFU Horticulture and Potatoes Board Ali Capper, bemoans that the ballot is a simple question that ‘does not allow all the nuances around the debate to be heard’.
Vegetable grower Peter Thorold adds: “It cannot be right that some growers who cannot pay their levy due to these terrible economic times may be denied a vote while others in a similar situation may qualify because AHDB appears to approve of them. Furthermore, AHDB and Defra must not confuse a lack of votes with an endorsement of the status quo. Any attempt to count those who do not return their ballot paper as a vote to continue the statutory levy would not only be incorrect but a blatant attempt to misrepresent the results of a democratic process. Throughout this process the NFU has, at best, sat on the fence and, at worst, promoted the continuation of AHDB against the wishes of its grower members.”
Lincolnshire vegetable and potato farmer John Bratley explains: “The whole point of our original ballot in July was to discover the true views of levy-payers and the results were overwhelming. When we asked the NFU to respond to our findings by calling for an official ballot they refused, so with the mandate we had received from growers we started the official ballot process.”
Potato levy ballot also likely
In a further development, the AHDB Petitioners have announced that they have now launched the process of collating requests for a formal ballot on a statutory levy of AHDB Potato growers, with a view to handing the necessary number of completed requests to AHDB in the next few weeks.
John Bratley adds: “Our initial ballot in July also highlighted a significant level of discontent with AHDB amongst potato growers. In now calling for their requests for a formal ballot on the continuation of a statutory levy we are ensuring that their voices are heard too.”