New farming and food minister Lord Rooker could tear up Lord Bach's verdict on the levy bodies' future and come to his own decision, Defra warned this week.
A spokeswoman for the department said Lord Rooker had requested more time to get to grips with a review of the levy bodies' role by economist Rosemary Radcliffe, published last November, and consider the responses to a consultation on her recommendations, which closed in February.
The Defra spokeswoman said that prior to Prime Minister Tony Blair's reshuffle earlier this month, in which all but one Defra minister was replaced, Lord Bach had been poised to announce his conclusions following the review.
However, any announcement by Lord Rooker, Lord Bach's successor, had now been put back until at least the first week of June, although farming sources said they believed it could be longer.
Lord Rooker had set up meetings with the boards of all the levy bodies to discuss their future, she said, adding: &aquot;He could decide to comply with Lord Bach's decision, or he could make a new decision altogether.&aquot;
Radcliffe said in her report that an umbrella commission should be created to act as a conduit between all sector bodies and the government.
A central organisation should also be created to provide services to the levy bodies such as levy collection, IT and human resources, she said.
She conceded this would spell the end of the Meat and Livestock Commission, though hinted that the umbrella commission and the new service company could be based at the MLC's headquarters in Milton Keynes, with many existing staff retained. Insiders said they had been expecting Lord Bach to adopt many of Radcliffe's proposals.
Three farming and food ministers have now overseen the levy body review - it was instigated in March 2005, during the tenure of Lord Whitty.