Funding Your Future 2023 – Cereals & Oilseeds Sector Chair open letter

An open letter to levy payers from Tom Clarke, AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds Sector Council chair.

It is a privilege to be a farmer. In many ways, ours is the best job in the world. Growing food, looking after our land, being part of a community, and often a long tradition. Many farmers love being their own boss. We prize our independence and our practical attitudes.

Even so, farming has always been challenging. Many things can seem to be against us: the weather, the markets, campaign groups, supply chains and regulation. Sometimes it can feel like there is no one on our side. 

But there is. The levies paid by growers, buyers and processors fund our team effort to support home-grown cereals and oilseeds. AHDB is your independent and trusted champion, working across the whole supply chain to unlock value which would otherwise be lost to our sector.

To continue that vital work, and do it better, we are asking for more investment.

On your side

AHDB does the things that farmers aren’t big or brave enough to do on their own – from trialling and testing varieties and chems, to producing guidance on cost-effective inputs and analysing market movements. On your behalf, we get the wider supply chain to cooperate on key issues, rather than compete. AHDB exists to help our homegrown cereals and oilseeds sector do better – independently.

Recently, the challenges we have always faced have got bigger. The climate is more unpredictable, subsidies are being cut, markets are volatile, input costs are rising, competition from imports intensifies, consumer demands increase and regulation is changing or uncertain.

More than at any time in the last 60 years, our sector needs an independent champion. We believe only AHDB has the expertise and independence to fill that role.

Your sector council – made up of levy payers – wants AHDB to do more, now and for the future. We are seeking your agreement.

More answers, new solutions

First and foremost, we want to increase funding of independent research by around £1m per year. We want you, the levy payer, to drive where that new research is focused.

We will engage with you to understand what questions you want answered. We will bring the best knowledge and practice to your business – whether that is relearning old techniques or borrowing innovations from abroad and other sectors. And, if we can’t source the answer, we will commission brand new research right here.

Relevant, practical and accessible advice

We want to improve existing services to meet tomorrow’s needs, for example:

  • The Recommended Lists – making the data more relevant, practical and accessible
  • RB209 – reflecting the need to get better results from lower inputs in all types of farming systems
  • Strategic and Monitor Farms - where farmer-to-farmer learning needs to be more widely spread, and collaborate more with similar networks

Taming the ‘Wild West’

As an independent, non-commercial body, AHDB can take a lead in setting the ground rules for the developing carbon and biodiversity markets.

We can apply respected and impartial analysis to help farmers and supply chains earn recognition and reward for the environmental assets they already have and the progress they are making.

We can also begin testing a wider set of novel products, such as biostimulants and trace element nutrition, to assess the actual impact they have in practice.

Funding our own future

For every tonne of cereal sold, growers pay 46p in levy. At current wheat prices, that is about 0.2%  I believe that is incredibly good value for money.

But the sector council believes you need AHDB to do more and do it better. That means investing more  12p more per tonne of cereals. We are asking buyers, processors and oilseed growers for similar increases.

AHDB faces a funding gap. We have run a fixed budget since 2011 – but inflation, tax and other costs have not stood still. This means our spending power is now only 40% of what it was 12 years ago. For example, in 2011 we were able to fund £2.5m of independent research. In 2022, that was down to £600K.

AHDB needs to step up to deliver more for farming, but without greater levy payer investment we will have to cut back even existing services.

We, the Cereals & Oilseeds Sector Council, would ask you to support the proposed levy. With your support, AHDB can deliver a clear return on your investment.

Let’s fund our own future.

If you would like to share your views, contact us at

We look forward to hearing from you.

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