Tributes have been paid to a farmer widely acknowledged as the ‘father’ of the Legal Assistance Scheme (LAS).
The scheme has supported thousands of farmers and fought dozens of test cases on behalf of the industry over the last 30 years.
Mr Foster passed away at home on January 5 after a short illness - aged 86.
NFU Regional Director, Adam Bedford, 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 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 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 1998-2004.
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.
Former North East LAS representative, Weardale farmer John Oulton, said Mr Foster’s legacy remains one of the NFU’s key member benefits.
“You don’t appreciate just how important LAS is until you need it,” he said.
“But thanks to Ronnie’s foresight, when our members need legal representation, we now have a scheme that is the envy of many.
"Over the years, it has supported thousands of farmers, whose lives could have been ruined without the legal backing it provides. Equally though, through LAS we have been able to fight big battles on behalf of the industry, with results that have benefitted us all.”
Devoted to his family - wife Mary, sons Robert and David and grandchildren Will, Jen and Josh - Mr Foster had many other interests and achievements beyond the NFU.
In his youth he excelled at rugby and played on the wing at Yorkshire schools level. He was also a keen fell runner.
Awarded an MBE for services to conservation and biodiversity in 1998, he was a founder member of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust alongside Joe Henson 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.
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.”
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