Britain’s deputy farming leader criticised the Prime Minister for repeatedly changing the minister in charge of agricultural and environmental policy during an appearance at Driffield Show, claiming that the latest appointment had come at a “critical” time.
Minette Batters, the deputy president of the National Farmers’ Union, told The Yorkshire Post it was “inexcusable” for David Cameron to switch the secretary of state role three times while European subsidy policy has been undergoing reform.
Owen Paterson was axed as Environment Secretary this week in a cabinet reshuffle which saw Norfolk MP and the former Parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Department for Education, Liz Truss, take his place.
Wiltshire farmer Mrs Batters, who was attending the East Riding’s agricultural showpiece for the first time since her recent appointment as deputy president, said: “It’s really important that we work with her and create a really good relationship with her. The NFU represents 55,000 farming members so it’s in her interests and ours that we have that.
“I think a worry for farmers up here is that it’s a very critical time to make a change. We have had so many changes and we need continuity. In the latest CAP reform we’ve had three different secretary of states which is inexcusable. Just when previous ministers have shown passion for the industry and wanted to drive it forward the Government seems to have said they are almost trying too much.
“I think some people will be sad to see Owen Paterson go. He very much understood farmers and he talked exceptionally well and said what they wanted to hear, just some of that wasn’t backed up by government. We would now like to see agriculture talked about across departments. Food production is not given nearly enough priority.”
The agricultural world was certainly given priority at the Driffield showground today with thousands attending for a day in the sun, livestock classes, horticultural and equine contests and family entertainment.
David Tite, chief executive of Driffield Agricultural Society, said: “This is our 139th show and we’re really pleased to announce that we have obtained planning permission for a fantastic new purpose built building for the showground which will make a big impact on the show in the future.”
Among the trophy winners was father and son John and Craig Hollingsworth of Midhopestones near Sheffield, whose Simmental cow Midhope Bright Light was named champion beef animal. It was the first time the pair had shown at an agricultural show.
John Hollingsworth, 67, said: “We came last year to have a look and brought her and her calf this year - it’s exceeded our expectations to win.”
The supreme dairy cow was a second calver Holstein shown by Peter Waring’s son James, 36, who claimed victory in a field of champion beasts which included his mother’s Jersey cow, while the sheep interbreed champion was Charles Marwood who farms near Easingwold and won the top title with his homebred shearling Charollais ewe.