14 December 1999
Pexton unveils NFU leadership bid
By Johann Tasker
TONY PEXTON, deputy-president of the National Farmers Union, has spoken for the first time about his leadership challenge against NFU president Ben Gill.
Mr Pexton has accepted a nomination to stand as a candidate for NFU president in the unions elections early next year, he confirmed to Farmers Weekly.
The union should adopt a broader vision to reflect the changes in farming and bring in more people to help it adapt to reforms in the agricultural sector, he said.
“The industry is going to change, the [NFU] membership is going to change and the union needs to change to meet the changing needs of its members,” he said.
“This means being able to talk to and get on with people not only in the agricultural industry, but in the ancillary industries as well.
“We all have the same interest and that is to get people to buy British and buy it again next week and the week after and the week after.”
Mr Pexton accepted his nomination after assessing support among the 92 members of the NFU council who will vote in the election on 2 February.
He said the union would benefit from closer contact with environmental groups because of the switch from production subsidies to conservation payments.
“What people often miss is that [World Trade Organisation rules] dont say you cannot subsidise your agriculture, but it does limit the way you can do it.
“It is at times like this when we have got these terrific changes that we need to involve other people as well as farmers.”
Mr Pexton, who was educated at Harper Adams Agricultural College, has already four terms served as NFU deputy-president.
He has a 461-hectare (1140-acre) arable and grass farm in the East Riding of Yorkshire, which he runs in partnership with his wife Elizabeth.
New rules mean that the winning candidate in the elections will be entitled to serve as NFU president for two years rather than the present period of months.
Militant farmers leader Richard Haddock, chairman of Devon NFU, has also been nominated to run for president but is refusing to say whether he will stand.
More candidates could emerge before nominations close on 31 December for the election which will include votes for the roles of deputy- and vice-president.