NFU officeholder hopefuls set out their plans

Welsh farmer Meurig Raymond has made a determined start to his bid to become the next NFU president, insisting: “I’m in it for the long-term.”

Mr Raymond is in a head-to-head contest with Warwickshire livestock farmer Adam Quinney, in the race to take over from outgoing president Peter Kendall.

Both candidates gave impressive performances as they addressed NFU members at the opening hustings event in Petersfield, Hampshire, on Monday (27 January).

Mr Raymond, the incumbent deputy president, said he had gained “many, many years of experience and knowledge” serving under Mr Kendall over the past eight years, which would put him in a “good position to lead the NFU in the years to come”.

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Increasing farm productivity by using all the most modern technologies available to feed an ever-increasing population, making sure farmers will not be disadvantaged in the final implementation of CAP reform by UK government and preparing the framework for the next CAP reform in 2017 were some of the key issues he identified.

‘Commitment’

A new programme to tackle bovine TB, making sure major retailers, such as Tesco, deliver on their commitments and giving young people the opportunities to succeed in farming were other key issues Mr Raymond highlighted.

When asked if he was in it for the long-term, he replied: “Yes, I have got plenty of support from home. I’ve been very lucky so serve under Peter [Kendall]. I still have that energy, that commitment.

“As far as I’m concerned, this is not a two-year stint. I’m in it for the long-term. I passionately believe in this industry.”

Mr Quinney, the incumbent NFU vice-president, is standing for president and deputy president.

He said farmers wanted a functioning industry across the board from markets and legislation to tackling bovine TB and succession.

Talking directly to consumers and the general public, explaining the case for agriculture with politicians, non-governmental organisations, and the food chain, would be critical going forward, he added.

“As far as I’m concerned, this is not a two-year stint. I’m in it for the long-term. I passionately believe in this industry.”
Meurig Raymond

“Why me? I think it’s important that you have an office holder that is known, has the experience working with politicians and other lobbying, that you are gained and trusted,” said Mr Quinney, making the case for his election.

“Also, somebody who at times will tell you what you don’t want to hear, someone who will take that message from the farm to the regions. That’s why I want be an office holder.”

Mr Quinney said he was “confident” he would end up as NFU president one day. He added that he had shown his commitment to office by working five-to-six days a week in his current role.

Mr Raymond is widely tipped to become the next NFU president. However, who will become the next deputy and vice-president is far less clear.

Talk among NFU members at the hustings event was that a woman could be installed at the top table for the first time.

Yorkshire farmer Rosey Dunn and Wiltshire livestock farmer Minette Batters are both vying for the posts of deputy and vice-president.

Both gave assured performance at the hustings event and were warmly applauded by the audience of some 40 NFU members.

‘Determination’

Ms Dunn argued the case for a standalone body to tackle bovine TB, urgently resolve flooding issues affecting farmers nationwide, “fine detail” on the new CAP deal and “realistic opportunities” for new entrants.

She added: “Can I say to those of you here who have a vote, ask yourself this: ‘Who has the time? Who has the skills and experience and who has the drive and the determination?’ I have.”

While Ms Batters said farming needed a strategic plan, working with government, partners in Europe and colleagues throughout the food chain, developing a business plan building towards 2020 and beyond.

“We are an island nation with a global market. We must have s strategic plan to ensure English and Welsh farmers remain competitive,” she added.

Secondly, Ms Batters pointed out that family farms are the “DNA of rural Britain” and government must recognise that farmers needed less bureaucracy, less red tape. “Farmers must be allowed to farm.”

Thirdly, she said farmers “talked far too much to each other” and must broaden their horizons and communicate to others to make progress.

“I want to see us engaging, with health and education, and especially with BIS – the department of Business, Innovation and Skills – is it not time that we had the minister of science to our NFU conference?”

Candidates

The full list of candidates is president: Meurig Raynond, Adam Quinney; deputy president: Minette Batters, Thomas Binns, David Brookes, Rosey Dunn, Adam Quinney; vice-president: Minette Batters; Thomas Binns, Jonathan Brant, David Brookes, Rosey Dunn, Robert Lasseter, Guy Smith.

The candidates were continuing to press their claims for the top-three jobs with the second hustings event due to take place in Exeter on Monday night (27 January)

The election takes place at the end of the NFU 2014 conference and annual meeting in Birmingham on 26 February.

The results will be decided by an NFU council vote, made up of about 80 delegates from the counties of England and Wales.