IMAGE AHDB estimates there were 2.11Mt of potatoes in grower held stores at end-January

Levy payers voted to drop the compulsory levies in AHDB’s horticulture and potato sectors earlier this year

Defra has confirmed it will end the statutory levy from potato and horticulture growers from April 2022, subject to consultation, following votes to ditch the payments by growers earlier this year.

The government department said the consultation – which will run for seven weeks from 17 November – was in agreement with the devolved administrations of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and would also seek views on how to reform the levy board “to deliver greater accountability and value for money for farmers across the UK”.

It comes as AHDB is gearing up for further votes on the future of the levy in its other sectors, such as meat and dairy, next spring.

AHDB CEO Tim Rycroft said he welcomed the clarity from government and looked “forward to hearing the industry’s response”.

The votes next spring would “ask levy payers to shape our work and priorities for the next five years”, he added. “We will be saying more about this soon and explaining to levy players how they can register to have their say.”

Can AHDB evolve fast enough to stop more sectors rejecting levy?

This week also saw Defra announce the launch of a £27m grant fund for farmers in England to benefit those looking to increase productivity in an environmentally friendly way. The Farming Investment Fund will be eligible to farmers, foresters and growers looking to “buy new equipment and infrastructure to help to improve efficiency”.

“Investing in new technology and equipment on farm has a real impact on productivity and yields, as well as a benefit for the environment as we build on the historic commitments of COP 26,” said farming minister Victoria Prentis.

Beneficiaries can use money from the fund, which the government is pitching as part of its post-Brexit agricultural transition blueprint, to buy equipment such as electronic seeders and chemical-free disinfection systems as well as fund upgrades to on-site irrigation.

Funding could also be made available for farmers who want to erect solar powered electric fences and replace chemicals-based water treatment systems with alternatives that use ultraviolet light, Defra said.

“I would encourage those eligible to make an application for this valuable support,” said Paul Caldwell, CEO of the Rural Payments Agency.

AHDB announces £8m in cuts following vote to abolish horticulture and potato levies