Ryedale-born Robert Goodwill said there was never a better time for him to step into the role at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) but that his Westminster colleagues must act decisively to ensure the kind of hard Brexit that the agricultural industry fears is avoided.
The MP for Scarborough and Whitby is an arable farmer on the 250-acre family farm at Terrington near Malton where his family have farmed since 1850. He succeeds George Eustice who resigned as Farming Minister last Thursday.
Making his first public appearances since his appointment on Tuesday, he visited McCain Foods yesterday and then spoke to The Yorkshire Post after officially opening a new fish pass, white water course for canoeists and hydropower plant on the River Ouse near Nun Monkton.
He discusses both the new project on the Ouse and his approach to his role at Defra in the video at the top of this page.
On landing the Defra brief, the Minister said: “It did come as a surprise but then a lot of my colleagues turned round and said well we knew it had to be you.
“Someone said I was a round peg in a round hole, I hope that proves to be the case.”
The Yorkshire Post says: Why Robert Goodwill’s promotion will be welcomed by farmers and rural campaigners in YorkshireMr Goodwill has previously served as a minister for immigration and for transport. He was also a member of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee for five years and has been a member of Westminster’s Environmental Audit Committee for the past year.
“I have a degree in agriculture so they (farmers) don’t need to explain to me how the industry works,” he said. “But I think they need to explain to me their problems and of course there are lots of sectors within the agricultural industry... that I’m going to learn more about.
"I hope we can respond as we develop farmers in the future, once we have left the European Union, not just to deliver a sustainable agricultural industry but also those public goods that the taxpayers would like to see from farming as well.
“I think there has never been a better time to be the agriculture minister with those great opportunities ahead of us.”
He said farmers, around the country, like people in other industries, were “very apprehensive and nervous” about the prospect of a no-deal Brexit, which is why MPs should vote for the Theresa May’s Brexit deal with the EU at Tuesday’s meaningful vote in Parliament.
“I was with the Prime Minister voting for the deal in January and I will be there again on Tuesday making sure we can deliver on the referendum result and get the deal across the line, otherwise it will be more uncertainty and that’s not good for business, not good for investment,” Mr Goodwill said.
A new hydropower turbine powers a nearby free range chicken farm by way of a 15ft wide Archimedean screw. Stepped pools in the river mean canoeists can pass upstream and salmon, trout, eels and other fish can reach spawning grounds as far north as Aysgarth Falls.
The scheme is located at the site of an 18th century weir and lock designed by Leeds-born engineer John Smeaton. A ‘salmon ladder’ was added to the weir in 1895. Now Grade II-listed, the weir and lock have been repaired as part of the wider project.
Pat O’Brien, fisheries technical specialist at the Environment Agency, said: “This is a fantastic partnership scheme that provides many positive environmental outcomes.
“The hydropower station offers a source of green energy, it provides a new recreational facility for canoeists at a location close to York and fish passage for all species has been optimised at no cost to the public purse.”
Ben Seal, Places to Paddle manager at British Canoeing, added that the white water course will be “a fantastic regional facility of national significance”.
“Its creative design fulfils both environmental and recreational needs, allowing canoeists to come and train, compete and play,” he said.
“We certainly hope that this concept can be a blueprint for others to draw from in future.”