The NFU presidential race is shaping up to be one of the closest run contests in the union’s history, following deputy president Peter Kendall’s decision to run for the post.

Mr Kendall, an arable farmer from east Bedfordshire, this week confirmed rumours that he does intend to stand in the election which takes place on 28 February.

He will face current president Tim Bennett and Better NFU candidate David Handley.

Mr Kendall, who has strong support among the younger members of NFU Council, stressed his decision to let his name go forward did not mean there was a major split between him and Mr Bennett.

“This was an enormously difficult decision as I work well with Tim.

But I will stand as I think we should offer Council a choice of a different style,” he said.

“Tim’s style is to work behind the scenes and he is very good at that. But I think we should have someone within the industry who is more visibly championing productive agriculture.”

Some NFU members have indicated they would like to see the NFU take a more aggressive line, but Mr Kendall said championing agriculture was not the same as shouting.

“I think we should be forming alliances with other groups so we can do some smart lobbying, rather than look like angry farmers,” he said.

“We share some ground with most of the environmental groups on some issues.”

The industry was suffering from too much quick-fix regulation and smarter solutions should be found to fix many of the problems facing the sector, he said.

In order to revitalise the union, Mr Kendall said he would like to use modern communications techniques such as text messages, so members would become more engaged.

To get members more involved in the election process, he suggested holding more public hustings where candidates could address members.

This would give farmers an opportunity to see people in action and they could then tell their Council delegate which way they would like to see them vote.

On the issue of supermarket dominance, Mr Kendall said pursuing a tougher statutory code of practice was union policy.

But he felt the way forward was also to champion the good behaviour shown by retailers such as Waitrose, and Marks & Spencer.

isabel.davies@rbi.co.uk