She replaces Ranil Jayawardena, MP for North East Hampshire, who had been Defra secretary since September

New prime minister Rishi Sunak has appointed former Defra minister Thérèse Coffey as the new secretary of state for the environment, food and rural affairs.

She replaces Ranil Jayawardena, MP for North East Hampshire, who was appointed by now-departed PM Liz Truss as Defra secretary at the start of her short tenure in September.

Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal, is the ninth Defra secretary since 2010, and was a staunch ally of the deposed ex-PM.

She previously served under prime minister Theresa May as a parliamentary under-secretary of state at Defra from 2016 – 2019 and then as minister of state for the environment and rural opportunity in the department from July to September 2019.

Coffey has in the past expressed support for the nature-based farming schemes Jayawardena had planned to weaken. She previously said: “Nature-based solutions really are the best and most cost-effective way to tackle climate change, with multiple benefits for the environment and communities.”

She has a mixed voting record on environmental issues; generally voting against measures to prevent climate change and consistently voting for selling England’s state-owned forests.

The NFU tweeted following her appointment, “Congratulations to Thérèse Coffey on being appointed the new Defra Secretary of State. We look forward to working with you to ensure British Farming can continue to thrive and supply the nation with high-quality, climate-friendly food.”

Under former prime minster Liz Truss, Coffey served as deputy prime minister and secretary of state for health. Prior to this she was secretary of state for work and pensions while Boris Johnson was at the helm at No 10.

Jayawardena announced his resignation on 25 October after 48 days in the role and said he was “pleased to have laid the groundwork to ‘free our farmers’”.

“From food security and backing British farmers, to water scarcity and growing our rural economy, I am sure HM government will continue to deliver,” he added.

Other important appointments to the Cabinet in regard to the food industry include Grant Shapps as business secretary, replacing Jacob Rees-Mogg, while Kemi Badenoch continues in the position of international trade secretary. Steve Barclay – who was health secretary between 5 July and 6 September in the dying days of Boris Johnson’s premiership – has been reappointed to the role by Sunak and replaces Coffey at the department of Health and Social Care.

Now Sunak is PM, more stormy waters lie ahead for industry