He said Dent "has steered the initiative through difficult times to establish it through the supply chain, even finding unexpected common ground with parts of it", and described the initiative as "the forerunner for other schemes such as the Campaign for a Farmed Environment".
Dent said: "The mindset 10 years ago was quite different. Best practice hadn't been defined, never mind applied. There were some serious debates and we got off to a slow start. I have reported to 11 ministers, some of whom were downright hostile."
He hands over the chairmanship to Wiltshire farmer Richard Butler, who said he was "stepping into big shoes". He praised Dent's success in bringing all parts of the industry together, working with outside bodies and supporting training programmes.
He pointed out that the Voluntary Initiative still faces challenges with the Sustainable Water Use and Water Framework Directives. "If we fail to deliver, we will lose more actives, and will end up importing food grown using those same products."