Tributes paid to Sir Ben Gill

Farming leaders have been paying tribute following the death of a former leader who guided the sector through some of its most troubled times.

Sir Ben Gill, who died this week aged 64 after a long illness, served as deputy president and then president of the National Farmers Union from 1992 through to 2004, taking in both the BSE crisis, but also the devastating foot and mouth outbreak of the early 2000s.

His role as a champion for UK farming and food, and his battles for reform of the Common Agricultural Policy were recognised not just by industry, and he was appointed a CBE in 1996 and knighted in 2004.

Meurig Raymond, current president of the NFU, 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 NFUs 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.

Sir Don Curry said: I first met Ben on a train to London in 1985 when we were both on our way to our first NFU Council meeting. We became the best of friends and as our careers developed he as President of the NFU and me as Chairman of the Meat and Livestock Commission we worked closely together for more than 20 years.

He will probably be best remembered for his leadership during the foot and mouth crisis. It was a time when the industry needed strong leadership and he delivered that in spades.

He was highly intelligent and very robust in his representation of the industry. To my mind he was one of the strongest leaders our industry has seen. He will be a huge loss to his wife Carolyn, his four boys and the industry as a whole.

Chair of 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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