October 24 2014 Latest news:
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
An Essex farmer has thrown his hat in the ring for the presidency of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU).
Guy Smith of St Osyth is set to challenge Welshman Meurig Raymond, who is currently deputy president, for the top spot when Peter Kendall steps down next year.
Mr Smith, who has been NFU county delegate for the past 10 years and chairman of the communications committee for eight, accepted a nomination by his county branch on Monday.
He is the first candidate to confirm he will stand against Mr Raymond, who announced last month he would run for president after eight years as deputy.
Mr Smith pointed out that the last few elections had been one candidate affairs, and said he was keen for the NFU to use elections to discuss policy.
“I’m very proud to have been nominated by my county for the positions of NFU president and deputy president,” he said.
“In running for the Presidency my first concern is to ensure there is more than one candidate for the post. Meurig Raymond is an old friend but I suspect he would agree that ‘one candidate’ elections do not make for good democracy. Office holder elections should be times of keen policy discussion within the NFU and you don’t get that with North Korean style single candidate ballots. I want to make sure people have choice. The presidency of the NFU is a very important role that should be decided by contest not through ‘ buggins turn’. If putting my hat in the ring encourages others to do the same then even better.
“Having said that I’m keen to give both posts my best shot. If I had one urgent and immediate policy goal it would simply to make sure we ask the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) at every turn ‘ what impact would this proposal have on UK farm production?’. It is a question that is not asked enough and it is how we have sleep walked into declining food security in this country over the last 30 years.”
Mr Smith, 54, whose children are aged 17, 21 and 23, said he was in a position where he could afford to devote the time to the job.
The presidency was “most ambitious thing” that farmers aspired to, he said.
“I’ll give this my best shot and I’m confident I can do the job,” he added.