A pressure group has been launched which aims to change the direction and leadership of the NFU.

The “Better NFU” organisation has been developed by Somerset dairy farmer Derek Mead, the Conservative Party’s new environmental adviser Zac Goldsmith and Farmers For Action chairman David Handley.

It aims to field its own candidates for the NFU presidential elactions, which are due to take place in February.

The group claims that in other countries, farmers have political muscle and know how to use it to great effect.

But it claims the NFU has refused to stand up to supermarket power and pursues the wrong agenda with government.

“Time after time, the current leadership of the NFU misses out on vital opportunities to fight for a better deal for farmers even when the climate of public opinion is sympathetic to their cause,” it claims.

“The NFU has automatic access to the inner corridors of power but is unwilling to use its position to argue for the changes that would benefit the farming community.”

The group claims that a Better NFU would:

• Campaign for a strengthened and legally-binding Supermarket Code of Practice with stricter terms and the appointment of an independent ombudsman – and not be afraid to take on the supermarkets when they abuse their position.

• Champion quality British food and support the expansion of promotional events like British Food Fortnight backed by professional public relations campaigns.

• Launch a campaign to persuade every local authority, school, hospital and prison in the country to buy more locally produced food.

• Calculate the costs of red tape on food production – and then lobby government to eradicate or simplify the most expensive regulations.

• Support farmer-led marketing activity and co-operatives as well as the expansion of local farmers markets.

• Put food security at the top of the NFU agenda to ensure that the health of the nation, biodiversity, the environment, animal welfare and our future food supply are protected.

• Bring in new blood to the NFU’s headquarters who understand the problems facing farmers and are willing to stand up and do something about them.

The group has set up a website detailing its complaints and aims. (www.betternfu.org.uk)

An NFU spokesman said: “The NFU is currently focused on a huge and widespread policy agenda including WTO negotiations, CAP reform and bovine tuberculosis.

“If there are members who are unhappy with the NFU’s work we are more than happy to hear their views through our democratic meeting structure and ultimately our Council.

“If any of these individuals want to stand for office then there are elections in February and March.

“In the meantime we believe that farmers want us to get on with improving the current situation for them.”