The surge in democratic expression so evident in the Scottish independence referendum earlier this year has been replicated in the battle for the top jobs in NFU Scotland.
In stark contrast to the 2013 election, when no voting was required, next year’s election will see no fewer than three candidates seeking to be president, with another three aiming to be vice-presidents.
Of the three hoping to get enough support to assume the presidency, two are also standing for the vice-presidency, while a current vice-president appears to want the top job or nothing.
So the scene is set for a real tussle, and the final decision will lie with the union’s council, composed of the representatives of the union’s 73 branches.
From the candidates, who are about to embark on a pan-Scottish series of hustings in the New Year, this means that lobbying is a fairly straightforward affair.
And any candidate who does his homework and performs well at the hustings will soon have a fair idea what his chances this is an all-male contest are for the annual meeting in February when the decision is announced.
This voting procedure is where true democracy is edged out. How representative the 129 council members from the branches are is a moot point.
It is a representative group that is well short of the 8,500 or so fully paid-up members of the union an organisation which has long and rightly prided itself on being a democratic body, fully attuned to its members’ wishes and aspirations and proud of being a representative and lobbying force.
Moving from an electoral system that relies on a few to include the entire membership would offer the winning candidates a genuine mandate based on a universal process. The membership would exert real influence and give some substance to the 10 hustings to be held from Dumfries and Galloway to Shetland.
Elections, as the referendum turnout graphically demonstrated, are about testing interested opinion and offering the electorate a programme for action and change.
They are also about ensuring that manifestos are challenged by as wide a range of individuals as possible.
They are the very bedrock of a fully-fledged democracy.
They should be open to the widest possible membership. Arranging a ballot process for 8,500 members should not be beyond the union’s capabilities.
However, it does not appear to be on the union’s agenda and at least for the current contest the tried method will hold sway.
But the successful candidates who emerge at the union’s AGM in February might well ponder whether the time is ripe for the century-old union to at least review the current electoral process, if not embrace a recognised system that would give its members one man, one vote.
A spokesman for the union made much of the point that the hustings “will give all candidates a platform and help ensure we elect the strongest team in February”.
Simply taking this a stage further and enfranchising the whole membership of the union would give added weight to that comment.
As to the presidential candidates, Allan Bowie and Rob Livesey are currently vice-presidents so branch representatives can judge them on their track records.
The former, who farms in north-east Fife, was elected vice-president in 2009.
Mr Livesey, a beef and sheep farmer from the Borders, was elected vice-president last year.
It is encouraging, however, that two seasoned office holders are being challenged. It’s good for democracy and it’s good for the union to have a wide choice.
The challenger in this case is Andrew Moir, currently contract farming at Thornton Mains, Laurencekirk, and the union’s combinable crops chairman.
Mr Moir is chairman of Ringlink Scotland, and the winter farming event AgriScot.
Whoever takes the top job will be faced with a series of challenges and opportunities that will sort the boys from the men and offer the chance to take charge of one of Scotland’s most professional lobbying organisations