Steve Reed Portrait (2)


 Streatham and Croydon North MP Reed held the shadow environment secretary brief in opposition

New secretary of state for the environment, food and rural affairs Steve Reed has unveiled five core priorities for his department, while Daniel Zeichner has been appointed as a minister of state.

The pair’s appointments by new prime minister Keir Starmer follows Labour’s landslide win in Thursday’s general election, which saw the party secure 412 parliamentary seats, up 211 on the last election in 2019 – giving it a majority of 172.

In a video statement posted to X yesterday, Reed, the MP for Streatham and Croydon North, described his selection as Defra secretary as a “huge honour”.

However, it also came at a time of “huge crisis”, he added, citing record levels of sewage in rivers, lakes and seas, coupled with the fact nature was “dying”, while confidence among farmers that was “the lowest on record”.

“It will take years to reverse the damage that’s been done,” he said. “But the work of change has now begun.”

Reed added he had already tasked his team at Defra to get to work on his five priorities: to clean up rivers, lakes and seas; create a roadmap to move Britain to a zero waste economy; to boost food security; and to ensure nature’s recovery and protect communities from the dangers of flooding.

Daniel Zeichner

Source: UK Parliament

Daniel Zeichner is expected to take on the farming brief

Reed and Zeichner’s appointments follow the pair holding the same shadow roles in opposition, though at the time of writing Defra was yet to confirm Cambridge MP Zeichner’s exact brief – despite many in the farming sector already congratulating him on his appointment as ‘farming minister’.

In a comment piece for The Grocer published last month, Ian Wright, the co-chair of the Food & Drink Export Council, predicted Zeichner would be a key player in food and farming policy, while Reed would likely be more prominent on the environment and net zero.

NFU president Tom Bradshaw met with the pair on Monday, when they discussed “key and immediate actions that are needed to enable the British food and farming sector to thrive”, the union said.

Topics high on the agenda included the critical role of food security in delivering national security, the investment required for the future of farming and restrictions around planning policy.

“With this big change in government, it’s crucial that the voices of our 46,000 farmer and grower members are heard loud and clear within the new Defra team,” said Bradshaw.

“Steve Reed has just outlined his plan for change and it’s good to hear that food security, the environment and flood management are all focus areas. These now need to be underpinned by a budget that will enable the necessary investment,” he added.

“Alongside these key areas, we’ll continue to work closely with Defra to provide policy solutions on issues such as bovine TB, the transition to ELMs, core standards for agri-food imports, the agricultural workforce, supply chain fairness, investment in infrastructure and flexibility in planning.”


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As well as meeting with the Defra secretary, the NFU said it had also written to MPs and cabinet ministers outlining the importance of British farming to the nation.

The letters, one sent to all English and Welsh MPs and others to all cabinet ministers in the context of their portfolios, set out the priority policies to support the nation’s shared ambition for food security and growth and will put British farming front and centre as MPs take their seats across parliament.

Bradshaw added: “In an increasingly volatile world, the production of safe, sustainable and affordable homegrown food has to be high on the political agenda. It’s something that matters to everyone and every MP.

“I urge all MPs, representing both urban and rural constituencies, to take us up on our offer of a local farm visit so they can hear first-hand about how investment in agriculture can benefit British families, British business and the great British countryside.”