Somerton and Frome MP David Heath has been appointed as Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in Tuesday’s Government reshuffle.
As Agriculture Minister he will serve under also newly appointed Secretary of State Owen Paterson MP, the former Northern Ireland Secretary.
Former deputy leader of the House of Commons, Mr Heath, said: “I am delighted to take on these new responsibilities, representing as I do one of the most rural constituencies in England and one of the most important dairy farming areas in the country.
“There is an enormous amount of work to do to ensure a fair deal for rural communities and a fair return for primary producers. I am looking forward to working with Owen Paterson, who represents a very similar constituency in rural Shropshire, to make that a reality.
“At the same time we need to protect rural services, grow the economic opportunities in countryside areas, and balance the needs of often fragile environments.”
Commenting on the appointment, Somerset farmer Geoff Sheppard said: “There’s no better person as far as I am concerned. David comes from the most populated area in Europe, in terms of dairy cows, and has an insight and sympathy for farmers and farming that make him ideally suited to the job.”
Mr Heath’s appointment was also welcomed by the Country Land and Business Association, which said he will be a “powerful advocate for UK agriculture.”
CLA south west director, John Mortimer, said Mr Heath had a clear understanding of the issues confronting rural and land-based businesses in this region and across the whole country.
He said: “We are looking forward to working with one of our own local MPs at ministerial level.
“We know him to be a good friend for farming and a champion of our region and we are sure he will be a powerful advocate for UK agriculture.”