Welcome to the Silly Season. Enter, stage left, Tony Blair's new "advisory rural recovery co-ordinator" in the shape of one of grocery's most colourful characters the ubiquitous Lord Haskins, non executive chairman of Northern Foods, and rich farmer buddie of the New Labour luvvies. But alas, his appointment is already setting the alarm bells ringing in important areas of the agrifood world. Diligent readers will remember that this is the man who, speaking to grocery's biggest audience, at the PTF dinner in February, sent parts of the organic movement into apoplexy. His suggestion that its disciples had replaced the Church of England "as a place where aristocrats take refuge from the real world" sparked cries of "crackpot" from the Shires, as did his view that the GM issue highlighted the "headless chicken syndrome which has bedevilled the food trade since BSE". So if you think the saga surrounding New Labour's efforts to understand country matters is nearly over, you ain't seen nothing yet. In truth, there are many in Whitehall, although not necessarily in all the upper echelons of the food chain, who see Lord Haskins' appointment as an inspired choice. But reports that the noble lord believes "farmers have been mollycoddled for too long" have not exactly caused beaming smiles at NFU headquarters. And Blair and Co could be accused of duplicating their effort on country crisis issues given they have already created a Rural Task Force which is doing the same job as Lord Haskins. Clearly, he faces big challenges. Before ink is put on a rural recovery plan, he must convince doubting farmers that he really can construct a strategy to help set the agrifood sector on course for a brighter future. And, perhaps could Lord Haskins also inject calm into the rural debate? But with a hungry media, not to mention a motley group of self-appointed rural guardians colouring the script, that's not going to be easy. But then, he might start by reducing the number of controversial headline opportunities emanating from his own mouth. Clive Beddall, Editor {{OPINION }}