Quality Meat Scotland cannot follow the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board’s plans to introduce levy payer votes to ratify council members.

As part of AHDB’s levy payers survey, the body asked farmers and growers to ratify appointees to its sector councils, with all those proposed candidates gaining over 50% backing. The move comes as part of the Shape the Future survey which gave levy payers a chance to have their say on AHDB’s work.

However, QMS has since made it clear that, under its present status, it is unable to follow suit.

AHDB’s Divisional Director of Engagement, Will Jackson, said: “This process of ratification has proven to be a successful one in which levy payers have been able to have their say on the councils who represent them and their sector. It is likely we will continue with this process in the future to ratify new and existing council members.

“Sector Chairs require a unique set of skills and expertise to fulfil their role as the link between the main AHDB board and their sector council, so will continue to be selected by the AHDB Chair and main board.”

However QMS’s current 'Non Departmental Public Body' status means the recruitment process for the board members is handled directly by the Scottish Government. Being a smaller organisation than AHDB, the board act as the council but there is another layer of committees.

Appointees for the board are selected by government on the criteria of knowledge and experience in the different parts of the red meat sector. Constitutionally the board makeup needs to be 50% levy payers. Representatives from farmer and food sector organisations are included throughout the committee structure.

Meanwhile the AHDB said that its survey results had shown that all its proposed work streams were backed by levy payers as being worth while. Out of 10,537 registered levy payers, 4478 responded to the survey, and were asked if they agreed with the proposed priorities for each sector by ranking them in terms of importance from 1 – 5. They were then asked to rank the importance of the work AHDB should do to support those areas.

The results suggest that farmers and growers want AHDB to first and foremost protect the reputation of the beef, lamb, dairy and pork sectors and promote their benefits to the public. However all the work streams proposed by AHDB were backed by the survey. None of the plans received a majority of farmers saying they were 'unimportant'.

This now leaves the levy body with a heavy workload whilst its income has dropped after the potato and horticulture levies were ended by a producer ballot in each of those sectors.

The results and feedback will now be used by the sector councils to make funding decisions in the sector they represent.