Robert Goodwill replaces George Eustice
Robert Goodwill, 62, MP for Scarborough and Whitby since 2005, has been appointed Farms Minister in Defra following the resignation of George Eustice. He took a degree in agriculture at Newcastle University and is a Yorkshire framer. He previously held ministerial posts for transport, immigration and education and was an active member of the NFU before entering Parliament.
Tony Juniper for Natural England
Tony Juniper has been appointed as the new Chairman of Natural England to replace Andrew Sells. As a former Executive Director of Friends of the Earth and of WWF-UK and President of the Wildlife Trusts, he is seen very much as an ardent environmentalist, described by one newspaper as the most effective of Britain’s eco-warriors. His appointment has been met with a mixed response, especially by farmers who are worried that his views may clash with food production priorities. It is reported that he was the only candidate considered by Michael Gove, Secretary of State at Defra.
Farm Borrowing Up
Bank lending to agriculture rose by £72 million in January to a total of £18.95 billion. Whilst this is not unusual, it is almost double the rise in the corresponding period last year. Yet investment is down, not least because of Brexit uncertainty, suggesting that the increased borrowing is to support cash flow. This is suffering, at least in part, due to late payments for agri-environment schemes with 14,000 historic Environmental Stewardship grants outstanding and 8,000 Countryside Stewardship payments for 2018 still awaiting processing.
The extensive research carried out by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust shows that the number of woodcock in the country this winter showed a marked increase, particularly in the south. This was a surprise as there were fears that the dry summer of 2018 would have reduced breeding success as it did with grouse. Some woodcock breed in this country whilst others migrate many thousands of miles to breed in Scandinavia, Russia and points east. The latest figures do not distinguish between the two.