Act now, Gill tells new department
By Isabel Davies
FARMERS leader Ben Gill has called on the government to take urgent action on farming following the abolition of the Ministry of Agriculture.
The Ministry is being subsumed into a new Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) headed by secretary of state Margaret Beckett.
Mr Gill, president of the National Farmers Union, pledged to work “positively and hard” with Mrs Beckett who started work over the weekend.
But he stressed there was a packed agenda of farming issues that must be addressed immediately as Labour enters its second term in government.
One of the most vital jobs for the new minister would be to ensure that no momentum was lost in the battle against foot-and-mouth disease, said Mr Gill.
Equally important would be a programme to help speed the industry to recovery after one of its most disastrous episodes ever, he added.
“There is much to be done, and fast,” said Mr Gill.
“We intend to work with the secretary of state and her team to ensure that farmers best interests are served.”
Speaking on Saturday (09 June), Mrs Beckett said she was looking forward to tackling the challenges the new department had to face.
“This new department will play an important role in taking forward the governments agenda for its second term,” she said.
“It will adopt a truly joined-up approach to all aspects of our environment to ensure a high quality of life, vibrant sustainable rural communities and a food chain that works together to meet the changing demands of consumers.”
Junior ministers for the new department, expected to spearhead a new drive on green issues and the countryside, will be unveiled on Monday (11 June).
They will take on MAFFs responsibility for food and farming and combine it with the old Department of the Environments responsibility for the countryside.
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