The former president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has died after a long illness.

The NFU said it was “deeply saddened” by the loss of Sir Ben Gill and described him as “a determined, vocal and passionate advocate for Britain’s farming sector”.

Sir Ben, who was 64, served as deputy president between 1992 and 1998 and then president between 1998 and 2004.

He also served as chairman of Visit Herefordshire from 2010. One of his main aims was to increase the amount visitors spent in the county.

NFU vice president Guy Smith said: “Ben Gill led the NFU through one of its most challenging and darkest episodes - the 2000-2001 Foot and Mouth epidemic.

"As the disease ran rife through the British livestock industry it was an important that the industry had a strong leadership. Ben Gill provided that leadership.

"As an individual I always enjoyed his company. He was colourful and robust, always enjoying conversation with those who gave as good as they got.”

And Hereford's Castle House Hotel said on its Facebook page: "We are all deeply saddened to hear of the death of Sir Ben Gill.

"He was a great friend to us all at Castle House and we shall miss his irrepressible humour and profound intelligence.

"Our deepest sympathies go to his wife Lady Carolyn and his four sons. They don't make them like him anymore."