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Thursday, 24 April 2014

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Essential role of new farm minister

GETTING the new farming minister up to Cumbria is crucial if he is to quickly grasp the issues facing county farmers, an industry spokesman says.

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Dumped: Jim Paice was a casualty of the cabinet reshuffle

Jim Paice’s departure from the post was one of the shocks of Tuesday’s Coalition cabinet reshuffle.

He was replaced by Liberal Democrat MP David Heath who represents a Somerset constituency and is a former frontbench party spokesman on agriculture and rural affairs.

Mr Paice was attending Livestock 2012 in Birmingham when he learned of his fate in a call from the Prime Minister. He had visited Cumbria at least four times during his tenure.

Ian Mandle, the NFU’s senior Carlisle adviser, said it was crucial to build a good relationship quickly with the new minister.

He added: “There were a lot of things in the melting pot, including the voluntary code of conduct for the dairy industry and the groceries ombudsman.

“It takes time to build new relationships and I would hate to think that these developments stall and lose momentum with Jim Paice going. We need to drive these dairy issues forward.”

Tim Farron MP, who represents Westmorland and Lonsdale, has already written to Mr Heath and the new Environment Secretary Owen Paterson inviting them to the county to meet farmers. He said: “I was sad to see Jim Paice leave Defra, he was a great minister and understood the sector and you could tell he loved farming and was a strong voice.

“However, the appointment of the first ever Liberal Democrat Defra Minister – David Heath, an MP from a very rural farming constituency – is extremely good news for Cumbria.”

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