An influential rural lobby group has praised the appointment of a Yorkshire MP from a farming background as Agriculture Minister during the “current political uncertainty”.
Theresa May appointed Scarborough and Whitby MP Robert Goodwill to the role this week after George Eustice quit the job last week to fight for Brexit.
Mr Goodwill, educated at the Quaker Bootham School in York, has been a farmer since 1979 of 250 acres near Malton, which has been in his family since 1850.
The appointment was welcomed by the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), with President Tim Breitmeyer saying he was “willing to listen and engage on the issues that matter”.
CLA Director North Dorothy Fairburn said: “Given the current political uncertainty, we are encouraged that another farmer would fill this role.
“We know Robert well in his capacity as an MP for Scarborough and Whitby, and his awareness of farming issues will no doubt stand him in good stead.”
Speaking about the role for the first time, Mr Goodwill said: “I worked in farming all my life, I have a degree in agriculture so it’s good to be in a position where I don’t have a learning curve to step on to. Somebody said the job was made for me but time will tell.
“I’m also glad to be working with Michael Gove, the Environment Minister to support farmers and realise the opportunities presented by Brexit.”
Mr Goodwill denied that his new post would distract him from his duties as MP for Scarborough and Whitby.
“If anything”, he said, “I feel that this position will allow me to better represent the views of my constituents. I know a lot of fishermen and I understand the challenges and issues that they face. Having a constituency like mine is the perfect fit for what we do.”
Among the first jobs he will be involved in is planning for a no-deal Brexit, which he admits will cause ‘‘massive turbulence in the sheep and beef market’’.
He also plans to focus on the new Agriculture Bill which sets out how farmers and land managers will in future be paid for “public goods”, such as better air and water quality, improved soil health, higher animal welfare standards and measures to reduce flooding.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove said he was “delighted” to welcome Mr Goodwill to the Defra team. He tweeted: “Robert’s hands-on knowledge of farming at the sharp end, experience in European politics, great ministerial record and shrewd judgment are an asset to Government.”