Mark Spencer appointed Defra farm minister

Former government chief whip Mark Spencer has been appointed Defra farm minister in a reshuffle by prime minister Liz Truss. 

Mr Spencer, a farmer and MP for Sherwood in the East Midlands, replaces Victoria Prentis, who moves on to the Department for Work and Pensions.

Mr Spencer retains strong ties with agriculture and studied at Shuttleworth Agricultural College in Bedfordshire. After completing his studies he returned to the family farm business and served as chairman of the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs.

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He entered politics as a district and county councillor, before successfully standing as the Tory candidate for Sherwood in 2010.

Since becoming an MP, Mr Spencer has been a member of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) committee, where he voiced support for the farm sector.

In 2019, he took up the role of chief whip, before being appointed leader of the House of Commons in February this year. Mr Spencer accepted the role of farm minister on 7 September, posting on Twitter that he was “delighted to be joining the Defra team”.

“Looking forward to supporting food production and the environment and our rural communities,” he added.

While Mr Spencer’s farming credentials have seen him broadly welcomed by the industry, some quarters have expressed regret that his predecessor Victoria Prentis was moving on.

After welcoming the new minister, the National Pig Association chief executive Lizzie Wilson directed a Twitter post at Mrs Prentis.

“So sorry to lose you minister. You have been so understanding and supportive,” Mrs Wilson tweeted.

“Your attention and urgency throughout this very challenging period has really been appreciated by our pig producer members. Good luck with the new position,” she added.

Meanwhile, Mrs Prentis said it had been a great privilege to serve at Defra.

“Farming and the environment will always be a major part of my life. I am very proud to have taken it through the Agriculture Act and Fisheries Act, and to have launched the first ever government food strategy,” the outgoing minister said.

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