Farm leaders say they are looking forward to working with the new DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn, but they need to make sure agriculture and horticulture remain at the heart of DEFRA’s priorities.
NFU president Peter Kendall said: “We are delighted to welcome Hilary Benn to DEFRA, and look forward to establishing a close and productive working relationship with him and the new DEFRA team of ministers.
“He comes to DEFRA at a time when there is a wide-ranging agenda of issues to be resolved.
“In dealing with all of them, it is vital that he understands the potential that farming offers to provide solutions on issues like food quality and security, climate change, the rural environment and renewable energy.
“With that in mind, we shall be working hard to make sure that agriculture and horticulture remain at the heart of DEFRA’s priorities.
David Fursdon, president of the Country Land and Business Association, said: “The CLA is sad to see David Miliband move on because he raised the profile of DEFRA throughout Government and we very hope much Mr Benn will continue to do the same.
“We believe Mr Benn’s other top priority must be to continue Mr Miliband’s work in sorting out the Rural Payments Agency. The announcement of the targets set by DEFRA for the RPA on 26 June was very welcome but it will require Mr Benn’s political clout to finally resolve the mess.
“His knowledge and understanding of food, trade and climate change gained from the global context as International Development Secretary will provide him with a useful perspective to the debate on food policy in the UK.”