NFU leads tributes to distinguished Moors farmer

The late Ronnie Foster. Picture courtesy of the NFU.
The late Ronnie Foster. Picture courtesy of the NFU.
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Tributes have been paid to a distinguished North York Moors farmer and show president who is credited with laying the groundwork for a national scheme of legal support for farmers across the country.

Ronnie Foster MBE, who was aged 86, passed away at home on Friday after a short illness, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said.

The union led the tributes, describing him as the “father” of the NFU’s Legal Assistance Scheme, an initiative that has supported thousands of farmers and fought dozens of test cases on behalf of the industry over the last 30 years.

Mr Foster, awarded an MBE for services to conservation and biodiversity in 1998, brought together various small county legal schemes to pave the way for the national scheme whilst serving as chairman of the NFU’s legal committee between 1987 to 1992.

He helped set up the Rare Breeds Survival Trust and served on the North York Moors National Park committee and planning committee.

He was treasurer and president of Rosedale Show and president of Ryedale Show, receiving an award from the latter for his outstanding services to agriculture.

Paying tribute to Mr Foster, the regional director of the NFU, Adam Bedford, said: “Ronnie’s drive and determination, coupled with a great sense of humour, a sharp intellect and kindly nature allowed him to make a lasting impression on the NFU.

“His foresight and passion was certainly the driving force behind the creation of our national legal assistance scheme that was ground-breaking when it was launched 30 years ago. But his contribution went much further and there are many within the NFU that remember working with him who are hugely saddened to hear that he is no longer with us.”

Mr Foster’s NFU career saw him elected as council delegate for the then York county from 1973 to 1986 and serve on numerous national committees including milk, hill farming, tenants and the influential Parliamentary, Land Use and Environment Committee.

He also acted as mentor to former NFU President Sir Ben Gill.

Mr Foster leaves behind wife Mary, sons Robert and David and grandchildren Will, Jen and Josh.

Trevor Foss, current chairman of the NFU Legal Board said: “Sadly I did not get to meet Ronnie, but the NFU, LAS and farming have lost a great ambassador for the industry.”

Fred Gooder, previous chairman of the Legal Board who worked with Mr Foster from 1988 until he retired added: “Ron’s support for farmers has been immense. His wise counsel has been appreciated. Our thoughts are with his family.”