meurig raymond© Rex Shutterstock

NFU president Meurig Raymond is set to face a leadership challenge when the union’s officeholder elections take place in February.

NFU deputy president Minette Batters has received four nominations from NFU county branches to challenge Mr Raymond and run for union president.

The four nominations are from Cornwall, Devon, Gloucestershire and Somerset – all in south-west England.

Ms Batters has also been nominated for re-election as deputy president. Asked whether she would accept the nominations, Ms Batters told Farmers Weekly: “I am delighted to have members’ support. I am seriously looking at both positions and will make a decision after Christmas.”

Low prices meant many farmers were under a lot of pressure, said Ms Batters.

With the election still almost three months away, more immediate issues needed to be addressed.

But she added: “It is important to listen to what the membership are saying.”

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Regardless of whether Mr Raymond is the right man for the job, many members feel a leadership challenge would be good for NFU democracy – and avoid a potentially embarrassing situation where the union president is simply re-elected unopposed.

Mr Raymond, who has already confirmed he will seek re-election for a second two-year term as NFU president, said he welcomed any challenge.

“The NFU is a democratic organisation and it is good that there are people challenging for positions,” he said.

“It is good for the industry and good for the organisation.”

NFU vice-president Guy Smith could also challenge Mr Raymond.

Mr Smith has been nominated by his home county Essex to stand for president as well as receiving four nominations to serve another term in his current position.

Devon farmer Anthony Rew has been nominated by his home county and by Cornwall to run for union vice-president.

Other candidates for the three officeholder positions are expected to emerge over the coming weeks as more union county branches hold their annual meetings.

Candidates can also run for office if they receive nominations from a group of at least 20 NFU members.

But Farmers For Action chairman David Handley said there was “no truth” in industry rumours that he was planning to use this route to challenge for the NFU leadership.

The union elections take place on 24 February following the NFU’s annual conference and AGM in Birmingham.