25 April 2000
Militant farmers set to challenge NFU
By FWi staff
THE militant Farmers For Action group claims to have the 500 signatures needed in a bid to oust Ben Gill, president of the National Farmers Union.
Farmers For Action leaders said they will now ask for talks with the union with the aim of setting a date for an NFU extraordinary general meeting.
They want to change the unions constitution so that NFU presidents are elected by what they claim is a more democratic one-member one-vote system.
Currently, NFU leaders are elected by the unions 92-strong council. Mr Gill was re-elected by the council for a second two-year term last February.
But Farmers Weekly readers voted overwhelmingly in favour of rival Richard Haddock in a phone-in poll by the magazine prior to the election.
Farmers For Action accepts that Mr Gill was elected legitimately under the current rules. But it claims that the NFU hierarchy is failing grassroots farmers.
Kelvin Linsley, an FFA spokesman, said last week that he thought that ordinary farmers were “continually being undermined” by the union.
“I can promise the NFU that if it steps in our way this time its in for the chop,” he said. “We have already got more than the 500 signatures needed.”
Mr Linsley said that Farmers For Action wants NFU members to have a more direct say in the election of the top brass in the union.
The group, which has organised high-profile demonstrations to highlight the farm crisis, believes ordinary farmers should be able remove a sitting president.
NFU deputy president Tim Bennett has said that only the unions council can change the constitution. He has pledged to stand by the NFUs election process.