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‘We look forward to working together’ - Farming industry reacts to cabinet reshuffle

Theresa Villiers has been confirmed as the new Defra Secretary with Michael Gove appointed as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Boris reshuffle
Boris reshuffle
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‘We look forward to working together’ - Farming industry reacts to cabinet reshuffle

New Prime Minister Boris Johnson began his premiership yesterday with a major overhaul of his cabinet, who met for the first time this morning.


Amongst the announcements were major changes at Defra, with Michael Gove being moved on and Theresa Villiers becoming the new Secretary of State.


Ms Villiers, MP for Chipping Barnet, has previously held the role of Northern Ireland Secretary.


Last year she led a call to end live animal exports, with a petition attracting 1.3 million signatures.


During the referendum, Ms Villiers supported the Brexit campaign and has consistently voted against Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement.


Ms Villiers voting record shows she has generally been supportive of culling badgers to tackle bovine Tb.


She has also generally been against increasing regulation on fracking, although she did vote for greater restrictions in areas such as National Parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and World Heritage sites.


Other appointments of note for the agriculture industry included former Defra Secretary Liz Truss as International Trade Secretary, replacing Liam Fox.


Another former Defra secretary Andrea Leadsom has been appointed Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.


Sajid Javid replaces Philip Hammond as Chancellor.


Nicky Morgan has been appointed Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and Robert Jenrick as Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government.

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NFU Scotland

NFU Scotland has written to they key cabinet appointments, including Alister Jack, Secretary of State for Scotland rand Mrs Villiers.


Mr McCornick said they had recieved 'significant commitments' from the new Prime Minister both publicly and privately.


"Congratulating them on their appointment, we now look forward to working closely with both Alister Jack and Theresa Villiers to secure delivery.


"In responding to NFU Scotland during the process for electing the new Prime Minister, Mr Johnson said his ambition was for a trade deal that minimises friction and that his intention was to establish a process that ensures that every sector and industry in the economy has access to the workers that it needs.


"He included a categorical commitment to address the £160 million shortfall in funding that Scottish farming has experienced in recent years as a result of the flawed convergence decisions taken by the Government in 2013, as well as providing an additional £25 million per year to the sector.


"With Lord Bew’s review of agricultural funding expected shortly, and Brexit casting a huge shadow over Scotland’s farmers and crofters, these are matters we would wish to pick up with our new Secretaries of State as a matter of urgency."


He added with Mrs Villiers the seventh Defra SoS in less than a decade it would be beneficial to meet soon to outline the priorities and concerns for Scottish farming.


"As MP for a rural constituency, and with a background in farming, Alister Jack will already have an excellent knowledge of the importance of Scottish food and farming and we would welcome the chance to discuss how, together, we can make the industry more profitable and productive in a post-Brexit future," he added.


"I would also like to publicly thank both David Mundell and Michael Gove. NFUS has had a good relationship with both, allowing valuable discussion and debate on Scottish food and farming to take place at both a local and national level."


The National Sheep Association said it was frustrated to have a new face at Defra at such a critical time and called on the new Prime Minister Secretary of State to ensure recent work around Brexit is not swept aside or lost in the changeover.

Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, said the risk of a no deal was placing the sector in ‘completely unjustifiable danger’.


He said they would have much preferred Michael Gove to remain in place for continuity.


“With Boris Johnson so new to the top job and Theresa Villiers taking on a brand new and very complex role at Defra, the absolute priority for both of them must be to ensure an orderly exit from the EU and continue the work to ensure protection is in place for the sheep sector in the worst case scenario of a no-deal.”


NSA has already written to Mr Johnson, highlighting the precarious position of the sheep sector as a major exporter to the EU and urging him to uphold the promise of a contingency plan and financial support in the event of a disorderly EU exit.


It also outlined where discussions were up to and that protection needed to be urgently confirmed, with the industry already entering into the trading period going up to and beyond the October 31 deadline.


Mr Stocker added NSA had met with Ms Villiers a few months ago, with concerns about her 'extreme stance on animal welfare' and was looking forwrd to meeting with her again soon.


“We are keeping our fingers crossed today that Robert Goodwill, Farming Minister, stays in his post. While reasonably new to the role, Mr Goodwill will represent some continuity at this time of huge upheaval.”


Tim Breitmeyer, CLA President, welcomed Mrs Villiers to her new role.


"We look forward to working together to ensure a healthy farming sector can help to meet the environmental challenges we collectively face, while delivering a prosperous rural economy."


"We have noted Mrs Villiers’ recent comments on a no deal Brexit and resulting WTO tariffs, but we know there are many farmers across the country with grave concerns. Currently 60% of our food exports go to the EU.


"Were draconian tariffs put in place, world class British produce would become uncompetitive in our largest market overnight."


He added there were also tremendous opportunities and landowners were key to meeting ambitions on climate change and the environment.


"The rural economy has extraordinary potential ready to be unleashed. But only an ambitious, creative and robust policy platform will support all of this.


"She replaces Mr Gove who we wish well in his new role working across Government. We hope that he continues to champion the needs of our sector in his new brief."


Nicky Morgan

On the appointment of Nicky Morgan as Secretary of State for DDCMS , he said CLA looked forward to working together to improve rural connectivity and bridge the rural/urban divide.


"Mrs Morgan has a tremendous opportunity to deliver on Boris Johnson’s promise of rural broadband for all which can unleash the currently untapped economic potential of the countryside, creating thousands of jobs in the process.


"But this is easier said than done, and we stand ready to help make this a reality."


"At the top of her inbox will be a proposal from mobile operators on delivering a single rural network to increase 4G coverage in the countryside. We made a consistent case to her predecessor that any proposals need to be legally binding, should be robustly monitored and require operators to publish roll-out plans.


"The focus should be on improving coverage as soon as possible."


Robert Jenrick


And on the appointment of Robert Jenrick as Secretary of State for MHCLG , he said he looked forward to working together to ensure rural communities could play their part in solving the housing crisis.


"Changes to planning will be key, but there are huge opportunities in empowering appropriate development in villages across the countryside.


"Much of this needs to be focused on affordable housing, enabling more to live and work locally. This will provide a much needed boost to rural economies and go some way to reversing the long-term decline of many of our villages.”


Farmers’ Union of Wales President Glyn Roberts has congratulated Theresa Villiers on her appointment as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and has issued an open invitation to her to visit farms in Wales in order to better understand the unique challenges that Welsh family farms face in the event of a no-deal Brexit.


NFU president Minette Batters said she was looking forward to working with Ms Villiers to help force a ‘the positive future of farming and food production in this country’.


Mrs Batters said British farming was proud to produce some of the highest quality food in the world and she looked forward to working together to showcase the high standards British farmers produce to, alongside caring for animals and the countryside.


“I invite Ms Villiers to join me on my farm so she can see first-hand the work that goes in to producing the country’s food and its potential for the future,” she said.


“When it comes to her political priorities, safeguarding Britain’s food producers and our domestic food supply has never been more important,” adding leaving the EU in a smooth and orderly way was vital to allow farm businesses to have a viable and sustainable future.


“That is why we urge the new Secretary of State to follow up on the promise of her predecessor and commit to a high-level commission to avoid British food production standards being undermined in the pursuit of post-Brexit trade deals.”


She also thanked Mr Gove for his ‘hard work and dedication to farming and agriculture’.


“He has recognised the difficult challenges facing the farming sector and the enormous potential we have to feed the nation. I hope the new Secretary of State will maintain the same progressive and energetic approach.”


Dawn Howard, NOAH Chief Executive, said she looked forward to working with Ms Villiers and her team to promote high standards of UK animal health and welfare.


"Leaving the EU without a deal presents a serious risk to the seamless supply of the medicines our animals need to protect their health and prevent disease and suffering, despite the extensive preparation for this eventuality that our members and government departments have carried out.


"We are keen to continue working with Government to develop more detailed plans to safeguard supplies," she said.


She added Government had an opportunity to take decisive action to increase farming resilience, ensuring a future fo those farming to the UK's high standards and ensuring continued access to medicines for vets, farmers and pet owners.


Looking towards a new chapter in UK agriculture policy, the future could mean farmers can be incentivised to deliver higher standards of animal health and welfare as a public good.


Ms Howard said they needed to champion a regulatory environment to support higher standards of animal health for livestock and pets.


"Measures to encourage innovation in the veterinary medicines field will be vital. We will continue with the veterinary sector’s good work in the fight against antibiotic resistance as a priority, with a parallel need to ensure the value of vaccines in disease prevention is recognised."

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