New levy-board chief to strengthen links

New horticulture sector company chair-designate Neil Bragg says he wants to maintain the threatened HDC while making stronger links with other industry bodies.

Bragg told HW: “We must maintain the strength of the existing HDC. It is very important and has done a fabulous job. I don’t want it dismantled — we should build on its strength. That is my crucial message to go out to everybody.” The five levy bodies — British Potato Council, Meat & Livestock Commission, Milk Development Council, Horticultural Development Council and Home Grown Cereals Authority — are to be replaced by one statutory levy board in April 2008, currently known as Levy Board UK, and with six sector companies, including one for horticulture. This follows 2005’s Radcliffe Review of their efficiency. Bragg said: “We need to look at proposals in Radcliffe. Things need to be changed and new areas should be examined but not in isolation. We need to involve other organisations, for instance the HTA. “But we’ve got to be careful we’re not doing things willy-nilly. The new board for horticulture needs to look at change seriously and meet other organisations. They need to be incorporated in synergetic relationships.” Bragg also emphasised that communication was vital to tell levy payers what their money was going towards. He said it would be premature to comment on a move for the HDC from East Malling in Kent to Stoneleigh in Warwickshire and on other strategic moves by the sector company, which first meets formally in September. Bragg replaces interim chair Andrew Colquhoun, who in turn replaced John Hall, who resigned after three months in the new role. Bragg started his career in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food, working in Northamptonshire and Lincolnshire before moving to Cambridge to the Field Drainage Experimental Unit and the then Open Cast Coal Executive looking into land restoration and drainage. He then moved to ADAS Soil Science where he became part of the Horticultural Specialist Group. He left ADAS in 1991 to work for Bulrush Horticulture. He became a director, with responsibility for product development, in 1998. Bragg has been co-ordinator to the Lancaster Environment Centre’s sustainable agriculture Waitrose Centre and chair of the British Bedding & Pot Plant Association. He is currently chairman of British Ornamental Plant Producers and a director of the Stockbridge Research Foundation. He will resign from both these positions. For more information see www.defra.gov.uk/farm/policy/levy-bodies/index.htm.

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