Richard Macdonald is to stand down as director general of the National Farmers’ Union later this year after nearly 13 years.

“It is a huge privilege to hold this job and I have greatly enjoyed all of my 13 years,” he said. “However, I have decided the time has come to give a bit more time to my family and other interests and I hope also to find some fresh work challenges.

“My decision has been difficult to reach but is entirely positive and I remain extremely committed to the NFU and farming - they are a large part of my life.”

Macdonald joined the NFU in the late 1970s as a parliamentary lobbyist and adviser. In 1985 he became the NFU’s county secretary for Devon and in 1989, the south west regional director. Three years later he was made director of membership and regions, becoming director general in 1996.

As director general, Macdonald wrote to supermarkets to demand more financial support for British meat producers and played an active role in the Office of Fair Trading’s decision to refer the grocery sector to the Competition Commission for investigation. He was also part of a high-profile team tasked with rebuilding the red meat sector after the 2001 foot and mouth crisis.

He had been the “driving force” behind the NFU, said its president Peter Kendall. “His enthusiasm, drive and commitment to the industry will be sorely missed and we wish him all the best as he pursues other interests,” Kendall added.

Macdonald is to remain in his role until later this year and a search has started to find his successor.