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Opinion: The new Farming Minister will not face too much goodwill

Meeting new Farming Minister Robert Goodwill for the first time last week, it was clear he is keen to get farmers onside.

On the wild bird control fiasco, badger culling and a long-term agriculture budget, Mr Goodwill made all the right noises.

 

His views on the role of grazing livestock in mitigating climate change will also be well-received by the farming community. Given his background in agriculture, this is perhaps not surprising.

 

But the new Minister will face resistance if he wants to follow these warm words up with action.

 

The successful legal challenge to the general licences for wild bird control was the first of its kind from Chris Packham’s new pressure group Wild Justice. There will undoubtedly be more to follow.

 

And all farmers are aware of the relentless push from animal rights activists, backed by respected groups, such as the Badger Trust and the National Trust, to stop the badger cull.

 

But let’s not forget, Mr Goodwill will not just face pressure from outside Defra – he will find resistance inside his own department’s family too.


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The anti-cull groups have a friend in a high place now Tony Juniper has been appointed chairman of Natural England.

 

When he was quizzed by MPs about his views before taking up the post, he admitted he would continue to lobby Ministers to drop the cull.

 

And just last month, Defra’s chief scientific adviser, Prof Ian Boyd, said cutting meat consumption would reduce environmental damage. He even went so far as to ‘like’ a controversial tweet from water regulator Ofwat promoting ‘Meat Free Monday’.

 

Mr Goodwill’s boss, Defra Secretary Michael Gove, also has his own history of dubious decision-making, such as banning metaldehyde.

 

So the question farmers need to be asking is: can the new Minister resist all this pressure? Only time will tell.

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