Dorset NFU members were doubtless heartened, at their annual meeting, to hear their new chairman, Paul Gould, announce his determination to get the badger cull extended to his county during his two-year stint in the hot seat.
He spoke, of course, with some knowledge of the subject; his own 160-cow dairy unit in the north of the county has been plagued by TB for the past five years. Dorset, interestingly enough, has an impressive track record when it comes to dealing with the striped menace. In the 1970s, trials at Steeple Leaze demonstrated clearly that TB could be brought under control by culling badgers as well as cattle – though doubtless the Friends of Brock will dismiss that outcome, claiming that science has moved on a lot since then, and anyway the results were almost certainly rigged.
Equally, however, Dorset's members would have been encouraged to grit their teeth for another few months by reassurances that the culling in West Somerset and Gloucestershire would, indeed, swing into action in the New Year.
The pledge came from union vice-president Adam Quinney, who is starting to command a good deal of respect from membership in the Westcountry because at least he understands livestock farming, rather than being merely acquainted with the quotidian task of dragging a plough from one end of a field to the other. Mr Quinney, indeed, is already being tipped as the only possible successor to Peter Kendall, standing as he does head and shoulders above a pretty uninspiring bunch of senior henchmen, though how soon he will get his chance to wear the horns is another matter giving the tenacity with which Mr Kendall is clinging to his post. Against all the normal protocols he managed to achieve an extension of his presidency after arguing that it would be a mistake to change horses while the CAP negotiations had yet to be concluded, and may well play a similar card again to win another – even though it would mean a change in the rules. But his increasingly autocratic style is beginning to mirror somewhat alarmingly that of his predecessor Ben Gill, who got upset when he couldn't get his own way (or when anyone mentioned the words Farmers For Action in his presence).
Perhaps Mr Quinney will be prepared to ride shotgun during more long, tedious months of the Kendall dynasty, but were he inclined to mount a challenge he would be assured of overwhelming support from farmers in the South West who feel for the first time in many years that there is someone close to the top of the NFU who actually speaks their language.
Chris Rundle is an agricultural journalist from Somerset