NFU Scotland will broadly support a proposed increase in the statutory levy paid by cereal and oilseed growers to deliver the work of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) but has attached significant caveats to that support.

In its consultation on proposed levy increases, AHDB would like to see the current levy rate for cereals increase from 46p per tonne to 58p per tonne for 2024/25 while the levy on oilseeds would increase from 75p per tonne to 94p per tonne. This would be the first increase in levies in more than a decade.

Following extensive consultation with members, there was majority support for the proposed increase but with significant caveats attached relating to promotion, communication, research, and the monitor farm programme in Scotland.

NFU Scotland’s combinable crops chair, Willie Thomson, who farms at Longniddry in East Lothian said: “We recognise the important role that AHDB must play in the future of agricultural production. We understand that to function effectively, AHDB must have sufficient funding to allow for investment in research, monitoring, and promotion.

“After an extensive consultation with members around the country, we broadly support the proposed levy increase in the cereals and oilseeds sector but based on member feedback, that support is conditional.

“In the first instance, levy payers must see greater communication and more evidence of the work that AHDB is doing, to ensure that our members receive a fair return for the levy they are paying.

“We want to see AHDB use levy funding to undertake greater promotional communications to build its outward facing profile on what our cereal and oilseed members produce. This must include a reworking of the current AHDB website to make it more accessible.

“We must see an increase in farmer-led research relevant to growers in Scotland, including new trials for resistant varieties that provide resilience against the challenges of growing in a changing climate. Again, outputs from this must be clearly communicated so levy payers can see what their levy is being used for.

“And finally, we would want to see an improvement and increase in the arable-specific monitor farm programme in Scotland.”