The levy board had refocused its activities with more targeted activities around areas such as marketing, market intelligence and exports

AHDB has announced a renewed set of slimmed down and more “focused” priorities for the next five years following a series of levy payer ballots earlier this year.

The levy board’s CEO Tim Rycroft said the qualitative ballot across beef & lamb, pork, cereals & oilseeds and dairy sectors had “generated a positive response” – in contrast to the levy-abolishing vote from potato and horticulture growers last year, with the new list of priorities giving them a mandate over the running of the body for the first time

As a result, AHDB had refocused its activities to support the reputation of the beef & lamb, dairy and pork sectors, Rycroft said.

These centred on areas such as exports (helping with issues such as market access, international marketing and trade shows); marketing (with campaigns such as We Eat Balanced); and insight and evidence (through market intelligence, animal health & welfare information, and insight on the environment and genetics).

AHDB’s work on pork would also place a particular focus on identifying lucrative markets and optimising access for all cuts, it said, while its work in dairy would additionally seek to offer practical support for farmers on reputational defence against challenges from campaign groups.

Its work in cereals & oilseeds, meanwhile, would concentrate on areas such as market intelligence, trusted variety and product testing, and in re-engaging farmers in research decisions made by AHDB.

The refocusing of AHDB’s priorities come after a significant tightening of its budget, which – in addition to the losses following the horticulture votes – had also been impacted by new VAT rules on the goods and services it purchases on behalf of levy payers, alongside the fact its amount had not been changed since 2010, Rycroft said.

“We made a promise to get our act together,” he added. “This will create a much more focused AHDB.”

The priorities also represented an “important milestone in our progress towards putting levy payers at the heart of all we do”, he pointed out.

“The outcome of the last few months allows us to have a strong understanding of what our farmers and processors believe will benefit them most in terms of the work we do,” Rycroft said.

“The decisions that have been taken by our sector councils also take into consideration added financial pressures faced by all four sectors, in this difficult economic climate. AHDB is looking to continue building on the positive engagement this has produced and the sector councils as well as AHDB’s senior team will be attending many events over the coming months to ensure we talk and listen directly to levy payers.”

Last year’s vote by potato and horticulture growers to abolish their levy resulted in more than £8m in budget cuts and the ending of AHDB’s involvement in the two sectors.