Minette BattersMinette Batters © Ian Hinchliffe/Rex/Shutterstock

The NFU could be set to elect its first female leader following a decision by Meurig Raymond to stand down as union president.

Wiltshire farmer and NFU deputy president Minette Batters has confirmed she will run for the union’s top job.

It comes after Mr Raymond announced he would not seek re-election at the NFU’s annual general meeting next February.

In an email to NFU council members, Mr Raymond said: “This has been a very difficult decision for me, but it has become increasingly clear that the complex negotiations for the UK to leave the EU will go well beyond the next two years.

See also: NFU leader Meurig Raymond to stand down

“I had always been clear that I would not want to serve as an officeholder beyond 2020 and so, for the sake of continuity and consistency throughout this critical period for British farming, I believe it is right that I should step back now rather than in 2020.”

Ms Batters confirmed to Farmers Weekly she would run for president in the NFU officeholder elections, held immediately after the union’s AGM in Birmingham on Wednesday, 21 February 2018.

She received her first nomination to do so on Wednesday (1 November).

If elected, Ms Batters would become the NFU’s first female leader in the union’s 109-year history.

But with four months to go, other contenders could also emerge.

Phenomenal contribution

Speaking earlier to farmers at a Norfolk NFU meeting, Ms Batters said Mr Raymond had made a phenomenal contribution to the union and its work.

“He has given long, long unstinting service to the NFU and it has been great to work with him.”

A beef producer specialising in selling premium store cattle, Ms Batters grew up living and working on-farm.

But with no succession tenancy available, she had to build her own business up from nothing.

As well as beef, it now includes a livery, wedding venue and hosts corporate events.

Ms Batters is expected to be challenged for the union’s top role by Essex farmer and NFU vice-president Guy Smith.

Mr Smith has been nominated to run for national president by farmers in his home county.

Paying tribute to Mr Raymond, he said it would be premature to throw his own hat in the ring. But he added: “An election needs more than one candidate.”

Mr Raymond’s NFU career spans five decades – including 14 years as a national officeholder.

He was elected chairman of his local NFU branch in 1979 and worked his way up through the ranks.

He became national vice-president in 2004, deputy president in 2006 and president in 2014.