Farm organisations in the UK have divergent opinions on the consequences of the formation of a Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) which takes over responsibility for the key environmental issue of climate change from DEFRA.
NFU vice-president Paul Temple said he hoped the separation of energy and climate change would leave DEFRA with a sharper focus on food and farming. That would echo the days of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF)that was focused on food production.
To echo the language of the film The Graduate I have one word to say to that: BSE. MAFF was a hopelessly clientilistic ministry that was in a symbiotic relationship with the NFU and almost always put productionist values first.
Because the Country Land and Business Association represents a lot of large landed estates (ok, I know that it has farmers like my brother-in-law in membership as well - a 7th generation Welsh farmer) it tends to be more interested in conservation. Actually, I also think there is a bit of self-selection in who becomes a member.
A CLA spokesman said that unless the two departments retained cohesion, the role of landowners in environmental management could be marginalised. 'Ed Miliband [the new DECC minister] will need to appease many groups in his new post and many campaigners who had relationships with DEFRA will have to introduce themselves to him afresh,' said the CLA.
Farmers Weekly blogger David Richardson, an unreconstructed productionist who is a very effective spokesman for large-scale arable farmers, said that until Hilary Been was removed, food production would never regain prominence, whatever the reshuffle. He accused Mr Benn of thinking of himself as an 'overseas development minister', presumably because he has expressed concern about the impact of the CAB on the Global South.
You can read David Richardson's views here: Farmer . When I looked the Defra story was second, as he was on to badgers.
It will be interesting to know what the new DEFRA Council of Food Policy Advisers will do, or more particularly whether it will take a balanced stance:
At the moment, I do not know who is on it which would indicate whether it was a nest of productionists or a body that tried to take account of a range of viewpoints.