The National Farmers' Union (NFU) horticulture and potatoes board chairman, Ali Capper, has responded to the news that 61% of respondents to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) horticulture levy ballot voted to discontinue the levy.

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She said: "This vote demonstrates that many growers feel either disappointed or disengaged with how their levy is being spent.

It will also be a disappointing result for those that see the importance in the principle of a statutory levy and the value that applied research and development can deliver for their businesses.

"A number of businesses have come out in support of the statutory levy in the past few weeks, albeit with necessary reforms of AHDB.

"While the majority of levy payers voted to discontinue the levy, it is notable that when results are weighted by levy contribution there is a majority to continue the levy."

'This shows just how divided levy payers have become'

Capper continued:

"This shows just how divided levy payers have become and makes it critically important that ministers consider carefully how to respect all sides of the debate.

It is important that the business innovation that comes from research and development programmes and the business critical work on plant protection products are not removed where there remains a need.

"While ministers are not bound by the vote, I would urge them to engage carefully with levy payers before reaching a decision on the next steps," she concluded.