THE former president of the National Farmers’ Union, Sir Ben Gill, has died at the age of 64.

Sir Ben used to own the 360-acre Hawkhills Estate, near Easingwold, which was in his family for two generations, and received a knighthood in the Queen’s birthday honours in 2004.

The award followed a CBE for his services to agriculture in 1996.

He was born Arthur Benjamin Norman Gill in York on January 1, 1950, the only son of a farmer, and was educated at St John’s College, Cambridge, where he studied Agriculture.

After teaching in Uganda for three years, Sir Ben returned to run a pig farm in East Yorkshire, before returning to Easingwold to take over the family farm in 1978.

Sir Ben was president of the NFU between 1998 and 2004, and in his time in the role oversaw the work to maintain strong during the aftermath of the BSE scandal and bans on British beef throughout Europe, and the foot-and-mouth outbreak at the turn of the millennium.

NFU President Meurig Raymond 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.”

Speaking when he announced his retirement as president of the NFU, Sir Ben said: “I have been enormously proud to have served as president.

“It has been a testing and demanding time, but I believe we are now reaching a watershed.

“The hard-won reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy should soon start to deliver benefits.”

Since then, the European Union revoked its ban on exports of British beef in 2006, something Sir Ben had campaigned for since being made deputy president of the NFU in 1992.

Sir Ben was also a supporter of a badger cull to stop the spread of bovine TB, and held several other roles in the agricultural industry, including chairman of Westbury Dairies, Eden Research and Visit Herefordshire – where he moved after selling the Hawkhills Estate.

He died on Thursday of last week (MAY 8), following a long illness.

He is survived by his wife Carolyn, who he married in 1973, and their four sons.