Farm minister David Heath has been sacked in a government reshuffle which has seen two appointments to DEFRA.
Mr Heath – who has served as farm minister for just 13 months – was axed from his post on Monday (7 October).
Junior DEFFA minister Richard Benyon lost his job too. He was responsible for fisheries, the natural environment, water and rural affairs. The two men were replaced by two Cornish MPs – Tory MP George Eustice and Lib Dem MP Dan Rogerson – although it is unclear which ministerial portfolio each politician will be given.
A former young farmer, Mr Eustice is the son of Paul and Adele Eustice, of Trevaskis Fruit Farm, near Connor Downs.
Mr Eustice worked on the family fruit farm for nine years before being elected at the 2013 general election as the Tory MP for Camborne and Redruth, Cornwall.
An outspoken critic of big retailers who exploit farmers, Mr Eustice says he “experienced first-hand some of the sharp practices” when the family business supplied strawberries to supermarkets.
“They ranged from forcing suppliers to use third party contractors, for things such as packaging and haulage, who would then charge suppliers more than the market rate.”
Mr Eustice told MPs during a House of Commons debate in November 2012 he had also experienced the retrospective clawing back of costs resulting from wastage on the shelf.
“Supermarkets would claw back not just what they paid, but the margin that they expected from a product,” he told his fellow MPs.
“Growers were frequently forced to participate, often unwillingly, in supermarket promotions, and were expected to sell their produce for below the market rate.”
Both Mr Eustice and Mr Rogerson have served as members of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee. Both men will now relinquish those roles.
Mr Rogerson has been MP for North Cornwall since the 2005 general election.
During his time on the EFRA committee, he has worked on inquiries into the rural economy, bovine TB, climate change and other issues.
Mr Rogerson also chairs the cheese industry parliamentary group – and opposed Ofcom’s inclusion of cheese in regulations restricting TV advertising of junk foods to children.
Mr Heath is yet to comment on the reshuffle.
Mr Benyon was leading a trade mission in Brazil when the reshuffle was confirmed.
He tweeted: “On back benches! 3 and half really fun years with much achieved. Really appreciate time working with outstanding ministers and officials.”
Fruit farmer appointed DEFRA minister