Two women hoping to become the NFU’s first female senior officeholder have urged voters to elect them on their merits – not because of their gender.

Yorkshire farmer Rosey Dunn (pictured above) and Wiltshire farmer Minette Batters are the only women among nine candidates vying for three NFU leadership roles.

All three senior posts of NFU president, NFU deputy president and NFU vice-president are up for grabs in union elections due to take place in February. Both women are contesting the elections for deputy president and vice-president.

NFU leadership hopefuls have now completed an 800-mile tour of farmers’ meetings held across England and Wales setting out the reasons they should be elected. The last of nine hustings was held at Newmarket on Thursday (30 January).

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Both Ms Dunn and Ms Batters were asked by farmers whether NFU council should elect a woman as a senior officeholder for the first time in the union’s 106-year history.

Ms Dunn replied: “Council has the vote, council will decide – it is not about electing a woman, it is about the best person for the job.”

An equally robust response was given by Ms Batters. It was a “hopeless argument” saying there weren’t enough women representatives, she said.

“Once you say that, the only way is down,” said Ms Batters. “It is not about being a woman, it is about being the best candidate.

As well as Suffolk, the past four days have seen hustings held in Hampshire, Devon, Worcestershire, Powys, Staffordshire, Lancashire, County Durham and Rutland.

The elections are seen as the most wide open for almost a decade following a decision by NFU president Peter Kendall to step down after eight years in office.

Members of the union’s 80-strong ruling council will elect a new leadership team following the NFU annual conference in Birmingham on 26 February.

* NFU elections: Pick your favourite candidates