Review of the Year: Agricultural politics

The year saw some big changes in agricultural politics with a government reshuffle and changes at DEFRA.

The government reshuffle saw two Cornish MPs propelled into the spotlight at DEFRA, taking responsibility for farming and the environment.

Tory George Eustice (Camborne, Redruth and Hayle) was handed the farming portfolio following the sacking of David Heath. A former young farmer, he worked on the family fruit farm for nine years before entering parliament in 2010.

Mr Eustice was joined by Liberal Democrat Dan Rogerson (North Cornwall), who was given responsibility for water, forestry, rural affairs and resource management. Until becoming a minister, Mr Rogerson was chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on cheese.

While both appointments were broadly welcomed, there was concern that the reshuffle marked another decline in the importance of agriculture within government. Both Mr Eustice and Mr Rogerson were named as parliamentary secretaries, while Mr Heath had been a junior minister.

The role farm minister was once a cabinet position – responsible for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) until the ministry was abolished in 2002. When MAFF was superseded by DEFRA, agriculture became the responsibility of a junior minister of state.

In a move he described as “brutal,” Mr Heath was removed as farm minister little more than a year after becoming the first Liberal Democrat to hold the post. He later announced he would stand down as an MP at the next general election.

For more on this topic

Q&A with George Eustice