Some retailers and food manufacturers might wonder what interest they should have in a ‘farming organisation’ like the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).
But for anyone asking ‘what has AHDB ever done for us?’, it would be worth understanding more about what we do as an arms-length non-departmental public body and how it benefits the industry.
AHDB supports farmers across the beef, lamb, pork, dairy and cereals and oilseeds sectors as well as others in the supply chain, including many processors. It recommends optimum crop varieties, advises on soil health, researches livestock genetics and runs a network of strategic farms promoting our farmer-to-farmer ‘Knowledge Exchange’ as well as many other things besides.
Additionally, there’s the work to open export markets, for example getting beef and lamb back into the US, opening up Mexico to British pork and showcasing the wonders of our dairy sector to territories including the UAE.
Another role deemed of high value by levy payers is correcting the misleading claims made about meat and dairy. Then there’s the TV and social media campaign ‘We Eat Balanced’, which promotes the nutritional and sustainability credentials of the foods produced by our livestock sectors.
Industry-wide market data and insight, reporting domestic market prices and interpreting global market movements in the cereals and oilseeds sector have also proven to be highly valued among all levy payers.
The fact is that our mission – to be acknowledged as a critical enabler for farming success – means we work right across the supply chain, from farmers at one end to consumers at the other.
Indeed, AHDB occupies a unique niche in the matrix of farming support organisations. Funded by a statutory levy, it is genuinely independent. It has the capacity to look long-term and has the scale to employ the best experts and to invest behind substantial programmes of work or longer-term research that would not pay back soon enough for commercial organisations to undertake.
With a significant fire at our HQ, Covid-19, ballots to end the levy in the potatoes and horticulture sectors and the consequences of Brexit, AHDB has a real understanding of how tough the past two years have been for the industry.
Now AHDB has turned the corner, with a clear plan to put levy payers at the heart of everything we do. We have a mechanism by which our funders can tell us precisely which issues they want us to focus on and which parts of our work they want the levy to prioritise investing in. We have changed the shape of the organisation through a painful programme of redundancies and committed to deliver £7.8m in cost savings.
This ‘new’ AHDB will be more outward-looking, more opinionated, quicker-moving and it will have a clearer focus on where we can add value alone, where we should do it in collaboration or where we should leave it to others.
In late spring we will run the largest consultation with levy payers we’ve ever undertaken. We are now asking levy payers to register to vote, so they can have their say on what we do.
I am asking everyone in the food supply chain to help us. I’ve already spoken to many of the leading players and I’m grateful for their support. Most of you reading this today will know some levy payers and potentially have a great deal of influence. Please encourage them to register. It takes less than five minutes to do online.
Thanks for your support.