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UK: Tributes paid following death of former NFU president Sir Ben Gill

16:38 08 May 2014

N.F.U President , Sir Ben Gill in his ceremonial gowns during his award ceremony at Otley College.
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N.F.U President , Sir Ben Gill in his ceremonial gowns during his award ceremony at Otley College. EADT 20 09 03

Former president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Sir Ben Gill has died after a long illness.

President of the National Farmers Union Ben Gill,  holds up a piece of beef which was to be sent to the French Embassy in protest of the fact that France have yet to lift the ban on British beef, during the NFU Annual meeting and AGM in central London, Wednesday 6 February, 2002. Mr Gill said that farmers must make their own destiny following the devastation of the foot-and-mouth epidemic, and that energetic action for change on an unprecedented scale was vital if the industry was to recover. See PA story FARM Conference. PA Photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth

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EADT 13 02 04President of the National Farmers Union Ben Gill, holds up a piece of beef which was to be sent to the French Embassy in protest of the fact that France have yet to lift the ban on British beef, during the NFU Annual meeting and AGM in central London, Wednesday 6 February, 2002. Mr Gill said that farmers must make their own destiny following the devastation of the foot-and-mouth epidemic, and that energetic action for change on an unprecedented scale was vital if the industry was to recover. See PA story FARM Conference. PA Photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth EADT 8.6.02 EADT 19.6.02 EADT 2.11.02 EADT 11.1.03 EADT 23.1.03 EADT 18 02 03 BUSINESS SUPP EADT 24 04 03 EADT 5 07 03 EADT 13 02 04

The NFU said it was “deeply saddened” by the news today, describing him as “a determined, vocal and passionate advocate for Britain’s farming sector”.

Sir Ben served as deputy president between 1992 and 1998 and then president between 1998 and 2004.

Showing huge strength of character during this time, he became a nationally-known figure as a formidable fighter for the sector and a champion of British food. He played a key role in leading British farming through the BSE and foot and mouth crises of the late 1990s and early 2000s, and in calling for major reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy in 2003, said the NFU.

St Osyth farmer and NFU vice president Guy Smith said: “Ben Gill led the NFU through one of its most challenging and darkest episodes - the 2000-2001 Foot and Mouth epidemic. As the disease ran rife through the British livestock industry it was an important that the industry had a strong leadership. Ben Gill provided that leadership. As an individual I always enjoyed his company. He was colourful and robust, always enjoying conversation with those who gave as good as they got.”

Ben Gill national president of the NFU, centre, with Pamela Forbes regional director and Stephen Rash NFU county chairman.
Photograph: KEITH MINDHAMBen Gill national president of the NFU, centre, with Pamela Forbes regional director and Stephen Rash NFU county chairman. Photograph: KEITH MINDHAM

Appointed a CBE in 1996 and knighted in 2004, Sir Ben was a lifelong servant of the industry throughout his long and successful career, more latterly in his role as chairman at Visit Herefordshire.

At the NFU, prior to becoming deputy president he also served as chairman of the union’s livestock committee. NFU President Meurig Raymond served on NFU Council when Sir Ben was President.

He said: “Ben Gill always had a big personality and tremendous determination.

“He led the farming industry through some very difficult times, but he always fought hard on behalf of the NFU’s farmer and grower members. Our industry will continue to benefit for a long time as a result of his achievements.

“Our sympathies are with his wife Lady Carolyn and his four sons.”

Former president and current chair of the AHDB Peter Kendall said: “This is a sad loss - Ben was a high profile and enthusiastic farming leader. Our sympathies go to his family.”

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