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From the editor: George Eustice's departure leaves farming in the lurch again

FOR a man who voluntarily stepped aside before seeing his job through to the end, the praise lavished on former Farming Minister George Eustice by some figures from within the agricultural representative bodies this week has been baffling.


Ben   Briggs

Ben   Briggs

Yes, Mr Eustice may have had a good feel for farming and represented its interests well during his tenure, but he departed the scene before crucial pieces of legislation, such as the Agriculture Bill and Environment Bill, saw fruition. That is inexcusable.

 

His departure seems to be part of a wider malaise within current Parliamentary democracy, with Ministers seeking to pursue their own agendas rather than those of the people they claim to represent.

 

Instead of walking away from agriculture at such a crucial time because of his clash of views with the Prime Minister over Brexit, much better would have been for him to stay in post and fight on behalf of our industry.

 

So now it is Robert Goodwill who enters the fray and must try and define himself in the considerable shadow of Defra Secretary Michael Gove.

 

The fact he has links to farming is to be welcomed as a positive, but whether he can make use of that knowledge is another thing.


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And as the debacle surrounding the sheep carcase splitting U-turn shows, what is required within Government are people who understand farming and can make the case for implementing common sense judgements such as these.

 

It might be that Ministers and civil servants thought a change to sheep ageing plans would make their job tricky in the short-term, especially if they had to explain to potential export partners why the changes had been brought in. But lack of knowledge should be no excuse for lumbering sheep farmers with outdated legislation which was heading for the scrapheap.

 

With agriculture often misunderstood or under-represented, having people within the corridors of power who can articulate its value is vital.

 

That is why whatever Mr Eustice achieved at Defra will always be overshadowed by his decision to abandon his brief earlier than he should.

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