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Icy Reception to Levy Board Criticism

by 5m Editor
7 March 2008, at 12:16pm

UK - The NFU has expressed its deep disappointment at the livestock associations who have criticised its stance on the role of the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board, accusing them of misrepresenting its position and creating unnecessary and potentially damaging controversy.

Commenting on a statement issued under embargo by the four organisations, NFU President Peter Kendall said it was mischievous and untrue to suggest that the NFU was arguing for English livestock farmers' levies to be used for other sectors.

Peter Kendall and wife

"We have always argued that the levies paid by any one sector should be ring-fenced for spending within that sector. These organisations know that perfectly well.

"They have turned down our offer of a meeting and instead issued a highly inflammatory statement which appears to have been designed to stir up as much trouble as possible. I am deeply disappointed by the way in which they have approached this issue."

Explaining the NFU's position, Mr Kendall said that the whole thrust of levy board reform was to minimise spending on overheads and duplication, so as to maximise the funding available for promotion, marketing, and research and development.

"The name of the game is delivering better value for the levy payer's money. One area with obvious potential for doing that is in the promotion of farm assurance standards so as to differentiate British farm produce from the imported competition. We make no apologies for believing that this can best be achieved through the development and promotion of a single, strong, well-supported marque that can be used to add value to the whole spectrum of farm assured outputs.

"AFS offers that platform, which is underpinned by independently audited standards of food chain assurance, respected by the food services, manufacturing and retail sectors, recognised by millions of consumers, and which, at the last count, was already being used on over £8 billion worth of food products at retail level.

"However, we would draw a clear distinction between the promotion of British farm assurance standards, which is an activity common to all sectors and can most powerfully be signified by a single marque, and the promotion of individual commodities or products, which should be entirely a matter for the sector concerned.

"The alternative, of each sector promoting shared standards and values through differing marques, runs the risk of confusing consumers, adding to the proliferation of marques and labels, and incurring unnecessary additional expenditure. Our vision is one in which the various sectors of British farming complement each other in their promotional activities, rather than tripping over each other.

"The NFU is most certainly not advocating that the levies of one group of farmers and growers should be used to fund the promotion of the products of another group of farmers and growers.

"With the spend on research and development, the AHDB should be concentrating on identifying ways in which sector-related spending on overheads and on cross-cutting R&D themes, such as water, climate change and diet and health, can be shared, so that a higher proportion of the levies paid by any one group of farmers or growers is spent on R&D specific to that sector."

5m Editor