NFU president Peter Kendall to stand down in February

PETER Kendall has confirmed his intention to step down as NFU leader in February, after eight years as president of the UK’s biggest farming union.

With nominations for elections to the three main NFU officeholder positions open this week, Mr Kendall informed the NFU council, gathered at the NFU’s Warwickshire headquarters on Monday, of his intentions to stand aside.

The announcement formally opens the race to become the next leader of the NFU, with Mr Kendall’s deputy of the past eight years, Meurig Raymond, likely to start as the front-runner, with vice president Adam Quinney another possible contender.

Mr Kendall said it had been a ‘huge privilege’ to serve as NFU president for the past eight years and said would be leaving the NFU in ‘excellent shape’.

“Sir John Beddington’s foresight report and three global food price spikes has meant that agriculture’s importance is being increasingly recognised,” said Mr Kendall.

“And there is still much work to do in many areas. I have always planned for this to be my final term in office but I will be leaving the NFU in excellent shape.

“To be President of the NFU is a huge privilege and I have been extremely fortunate to be part of a great team at the NFU working alongside very able and committed officeholders. I have been supported by the most fantastic, professional NFU staff. The breadth of knowledge, commitment and expertise available to NFU members is unsurpassed in the farming industry – and that has always made me immensely proud.

He said there was a ‘wealth of talent and experience out there among NFU members’ and that he looked forward to next year’s elections.

Mr Kendall’s decision comes as no surprise. After being re-elected in 2012, he indicated his intention to make his current and fourth two-year term his last but only confirmed his decision in public on Monday, after informing the NFU’s ruling body.

Mr Kendall decided to stand for a fourth term, having considered quitting after six years, because of what he described as ‘unfinished business’ on bovine TB and Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), issues still dominating the NFU agenda today.

Mr Kendall, who farms 620 hectares of combinable crops in East Bedfordshire, in partnership with his brother, became NFU president in 2006, after challenging and defeating incumbent president Tim Bennett. Previously he had served for a short time as Mr Bennett’s deputy, having chaired the NFU’s cereals committee.

He has presided over some key industry events, including the 2007 foot-and-mouth and bluetongue outbreaks, reform of the CAP, last year’s SOS Dairy campaign and the recent badger cull pilots.

The last few months have been particularly tumultuous, as Mr Kendall has clashed with Defra Secretary Owen Paterson over implementation of CAP reform in England and become a focal point of the protest movement against badger culling.

He revealed in the High Court in August how he and his family had been targeted directly by protestors, as the NFU successfully obtained an injunction against protestors ahead of the pilot badger culls.

Outspoken and an excellent communicator on public platforms and in the media, he has generally managed to achieve the balance of robust promotion of farming’s agenda, while retaining the respect of the political establishment and the food chain. His goal from the start, he said, was to promote farming in a positive light, as part of the solution to domestic and global food and environmental problems, rather than part of the problem.

His leadership style and policies have brought criticism from some farmers, inside and outside the NFU, while his vocal support for controversial policies like the badger cull, GM crops and large-scale farms have earned him lots of critics outside farming.

But he is widely seen, even by his farming critics, as a strong leader of the NFU who will be a tough act to follow.

Mr Kendall will continue as NFU president until the end of February.  

However, the battle for the top spot at the NFU and the other two officeholder positions will begin in earnest this week.

The race for the NFU leadership

  • The elections for the three main NFU officeholder positions will take place on the second day of the NFU 2014 annual conference, in Birmingham, on February 26.
  • The NFU council will vote to elect the three officeholders.
  • Nominations for the posts of president, deputy president and vice president can now be taken.
  • All full farmer and grower members are eligible to stand.  
  • Hustings will be held in the week commencing 27 January 2014. Further hustings dates may be arranged if required.
  • All nominations must be received by Wednesday 15 January at the latest.

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