New farm minister owns wellies
Liz Truss is the second woman MP from South-West Norfolk to hold the post of farm minister. Her predecessor Gillian Shephard held the portfolio from 1993 to 1994. There has been a long line of agriculture ministers from East Anglia.
Farm leaders wanted to keep Owen Paterson in post, but a lack of wellies during the floods undermined his reputation. His tough line on the badger cull earned plaudits from farmers, but leaving aside opposition from wildlife campaigners and many scientists, the cull failed on its own terms, targets not being met. Paterson then rather unfortunately complained that the badgers had moved the goalposts.
Some commentators, such as the Spectator think that he was targeted by pressure groups. This view has been pursued by Paterson who argues that he was the victim of a powerful self-serving environmental lobby he termed the 'green blob': Green blob . The Economist suggested that he should never have been appointed in the fisrt place.
As far as Farmers Weekly is concerned, Truss does have one of the main qualifications for the post, her own pair of willies, white to judge from the accompanying photograph, thus appearing stylish while avoiding the green colour favoured by urbanites in the countryside. She also takes a hard line on badgers.
The real difficulty for any Defra minister, apart from the fact that most agriculture policy is decided in Brussels, is Defra itself. It is a real mish mash of a department, uncertain whether its main role is to reform the CAP, boost the rural economy (of which agriculture is an important but only one part) or protect the environment. No wonder it has already finished off two ministers, but Ms Truss may be made of sterner stuff.