7 January 2000

Battle for top NFUposts

By Johann Tasker

TONY Pexton, one of the NFUs two deputy presidents, will bow out as a union office-holder unless he wins the presidential race or is re-elected to his current post.

Under new rules, next month will see the election of one deputy president and one lower-ranking vice-president instead of two equal ranking deputies.

Mr Pexton and his current equal Tim Bennett have both been nominated for the position of deputy.

But of the two men only Mr Bennett has been nominated for the role of vice-president. Devon farmer Richard Haddock, who has been nominated for all three of the unions top jobs, is also in the race.

Mr Pexton, who has served as a deputy president since 1995, said he was not interested in running for vice-president. He said he would "understand the message" from council delegates if he was not elected to one of the top two jobs.

Mr Bennett, however, will battle it out with three other candidates for the post of vice-president if he fails to become deputy. The other nominees are Mr Haddock, Shropshire farmer Richard Watson Jones and Leics farmer Rad Thomas.

Mr Thomas, who farms 255ha (630 acres) of arable and livestock enterprises, is chairman of the NFU oils, proteins and fibres committee. He is standing for election as a working farmer who wants to repatriate NFU policy to the unions grassroots members. He said: "The problem is one of communication and I think that is what needs to be improved."

Mr Watson Jones, who farms 445ha(1100 acres) chaired the NFU membership group which recommended earlier this year that the union should more fully meet the expectations if its members. "We have seen some changes, but with any organisation in todays rapidly changing market, we need the flexibility and courage to prepare for the future," he said.

Three men with their eyes on the top NFU job… (From left) Richard Haddock, Tony Pexton and Ben Gill.