TRIBUTES have been paid to a farmer who was a driving force in the NFU.

Ronnie Foster MBE, who lived in Rosedale, died at home on January 5, aged 86.

Mr Foster was widely acknowledged as the “father” of the NFU’s national legal assistance scheme (LAS) that has supported thousands of farmers and fought dozens of test cases on behalf of the industry over the last 30 years.

Adam Bedford, the NFU’s regional director, said it was difficult to sum up Mr Foster’s contribution to the NFU.

“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,” he said.

“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 long 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, who, when asked by Farmers’ Weekly to name his farming hero, immediately chose Mr Foster, recounting stories of him milking cows at home before catching the train to London and returning to milk again at night.

Mr Foster stood down as council delegate to allow Sir Ben to stand for election and the two remained friends as Sir Ben rose to lead the NFU from 1998 to 2004.

Chairman of the legal committee from 1987 to 1992, Mr Foster’s determination to bring a myriad of small county legal schemes together as one paved the way for a national scheme with the financial strength to represent the industry on the biggest stage.

Awarded an MBE for services to conservation and biodiversity in 1998, Mr Foster was a founder member of 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.

He leaves his wife Mary, sons Robert and David and grandchildren Will, Jen and Josh.