Federated Farmers' president Andrew Hoggard has stepped down from the top role in order to contest this year's election as the ACT party's Rangitīkei candidate.
The Manawatū dairy farmer's term was due to end in a couple of months and he said it was gutting to leave early.
But he said with speculation about his political aspirations it was in the federation's best interest to announce plans now.
Hoggard said farming was down in the dumps and he hoped he would have the chance to give the sector a strong voice in Parliament.
"When I took on the presidency one goal I had in mind was 'how can we make farming a bit more fun again' and it hasn't improved. And that's one thing if I can get into Parliament then just fixing regulations, making life easier with all the data entry and such. And then just championing the sector, and farmers," he said.
Hoggard joined Federated Farmers 18 years ago, spending time as the dairy section chair as well as three years as vice president.
He said reflecting on the president's role it has been "quite a slog", and the highlights of his time come more from being dairy section chair.
"We set up the first of the work place section plans to improve employment practises on dairy farms, along with Dairy NZ.
"It was a tough time on dairy farms at that time, we had the downturn, and I was constantly getting called on for what the latest drop in the GDT [Global Dairy Trade price index] meant for farmers, it was hard doing the media but I got a lot of feedback from farmers that they really appreciated the straight up and down and honest approach.
"We were all struggling through a bad payout situation but the fact I was able to give people, I wouldn't say hope, maybe more comic relief I brought to the role at the time, it helped them along and that's something I am proud of."
National's Agriculture spokesperson Todd McClay said he was not concerned that Hoggard was joining ACT rather than National.
"Haven't lost the farmer base at all, Andrew's been signalling that he's been going to ACT for some time so it ... won't be a surprise to anybody.
"The current government hasn't served farmers well at all, we've started to put out some really good policy, getting a great response from that, ultimately we'll make our case as other parties will come the election."
He said he had a lot of respect for Hoggard, but "he's the third leader of Feds to join ACT over a period of time, looks like there's a bit of a pattern there".
He said ACT and National were in "a similar space there I suppose".
They had not approached Hoggard, he said.
National MP Chris Bishop, the party's election campaign chair, said he did not personally know Hoggard well but he had been a great chair of Federated Farmers.
"If he is in fact joining the ACT Party, then, good on him," he said. "Federated Farmers have got a critical role to play as we go forward into the rest of this decade and into the 2030s but we selected outstanding farmer candidates over the last few months are running for National.
"I'm very confident that the rural parts of New Zealand are returning to their blue base."
Longtime National MP Gerry Brownlee had a less glowing review of Hoggard.
"I don't know who he is," he said.
Federated Farmers vice president Wayne Langford will be acting president until the national annual general meeting in July.