A CREDITON area farmer, John Lee OBE DL, has been elected as the new President of the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs (NFYFC).

Interview with NFYFC President John Lee OBE DL

Young Farmers’ Clubs (YFCs) voted unanimously to elect the farming and rural leader at its Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Leamington Spa on Sunday, April 21. 

John has been involved with Young Farmers’ Clubs (YFCs) since he was 16 years-old, starting out as a member of Newton St Cyres YFC.

He progressed through the organisation in club and county roles before becoming the Chair of NFYFC’s Council and now the first former chairman to become President.

John has an impressive background in agri-politics.

Lord Henry Plumb, who was NFYFC President when John first attended a NFYFC AGM, later inspired him to become involved in European politics, becoming the first and only President of the European Council of Young Farmers’ (CEJA) from England and Wales.

John also chaired the European Exchange Programme on behalf of the EU and was appointed to the Common Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee by the then Agricultural Commissioner.  

As well as taking on many roles in the South West, including Vice President of Devon Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs, he chairs the board of Mole Avon, a major agricultural supply business and is chairman of SWLT, the largest environmental and recreational charity in the South West.

John also holds many national positions, including Chair of the Rural Youth Trust, Past Chairman and now Trustee of The Farmers’ Club and of NFYFC. 

His latest appointment as President will see John working with and providing support to the NFYFC officer team. 

John said: “When I received the call from the NFYFC officers inviting me to be President, I was shocked and extremely surprised.

“It’s such an honour to be the figurehead of such an amazing organisation that has helped shape and influence my own personal and professional life. 

“This is the only organisation I have been involved in where the power comes upwards – it is the Young Farmers’ Clubs who are the foundation of the organisation and that is the great strength of YFC – it is an organisation that develops people’s skills or gives them opportunities to develop them, and I am looking forward to helping champion that.”

John who was also the founding Chair of FACE (Farming and Countryside Education), joint Patron of a national anti-bullying charity and a former High Sheriff of Devon is looking forward to supporting the YFC movement again. 

He recognised the different challenges NFYFC faced today from when he was involved in the 80s. 

John added: “We faced financial challenges, as NFYFC does today, but I suspect these are greater now than they were then. Back in the 80s and 90s, most county federations had full time staff but today that’s only a luxury for a few, meaning more support is needed from NFYFC. 

“Safeguarding has also become a priority, and rightly so, but this takes more resource and cost to make sure the whole organisation is compliant – not least because the average age of the membership has reduced considerably.” 

The election of the NFYFC President took place during the 92nd Annual General Meeting in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire.

He takes on the appointment following a three-year tenure in the post from world-renowned rugby union referee and farmer Nigel Owens MBE.

NFYFC Chair of Council Drew Bailey welcomed John to the role and said he was excited to work with him. 

“NFYFC is delighted to welcome John Lee OBE DL as President of the organisation. John’s extensive knowledge and experience will be of huge benefit to the officer team and the wider membership. 

“John is an inspirational figurehead for NFYFC – demonstrating what can be achieved by being involved in the organisation. John’s impressive career and industry connections will bring advantages to NFYFC and will hopefully inspire rural young people about the possibilities through YFC.” 

John was elected at the 92nd AGM during which YFC’s also voted on motions about the national subscription fee and the Annual Report and accounts. The meeting was followed by NFYFC’s Drama finals at the Spa Centre in Leamington.