Diane Dodds of the DUP commented: “The agriculture and the environment portfolio received the greatest shake up within the government with the Secretary of State for the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, Caroline Spelman being replaced by Owen Paterson, who of course we know as the now former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
“Mrs Spelman had a turbulent start in her new department following a row with the National Trust over the privatisation of forests.
Mrs Spelman then took the lead on driving forward the publicly controversial badger cull while negotiating the reform of the CAP.
Unfortunately for Mrs Spelman her hard work has been rewarded by a move to the back benches.
“Owen Patterson has now taken up the role left by the departure of Mrs Spelman, a man reported to be from the more traditional wing of the Conservative party and also a eurosceptic with pro enterprise and anti-redtape views.
Unknown to many in Northern Ireland is that Mr Patterson has served on the UK Agriculture Committee at Westminster and was appointed a Shadow Minister in DEFRA during the previous government.
“Mr Paterson has long been a supporter of a badger cull and will be expected to press ahead with the badger cull in England.
So passionate about the subject he has tabled hundreds of parliamentary questions on the subject putting huge pressure on the Labour government to explain their TB policy.
“He has strong connections with farming through his wife and also through his constituency which has a large dairy sector.
He will also be responsible for the Environment Agency but is not a supporter of energy subsides for wind and solar power.
“In relation to the CAP and his negotiating position it is still unknown but no doubt it will follow the DEFRA line of reducing direct support and let the market respond.
At best we can hope that given his time in Northern Ireland and recognising the need for regional flexibility in designing policies he will carry this forward when negotiating both at an EU and UK level.
Regional flexibility is a must for ensuring the best possible deal for Northern Ireland and retaining a healthy budget.”
Reflecting on the departure of Jim Paice Mrs Dodds said: “The departure of Jim Paice was most shocking and many within the industry have over the past few days acknowledged the hard work which he has done for the industry but also the frank way in which he has conducted himself.
“He was one of the main drivers behind the English badger cull policy, the supermarket ombudsman and the vast improvement in the performance of the Rural Payments Agency.
I have met Mr Paice on a number of occasions and he is straight talking with a good knowledge of the industry.
“Mr Paice is being replaced by Liberal Democrat MP, David Heath who has served as spokesman for the party on agriculture and rural affairs in the past.
He has also been every vocal in the past on Europe and could be classed as a eurosceptic.
He is passionate about the industry and comes across as being aware of the issues in his rural constituency.
“I will continue to engage on a regular basis as I have done with these government ministers on all issues but mainly on the CAP given that negotiations are at a critical stage.
Therefore I have written to DEFRA seeking a meeting at the earliest possible opportunity.”
Meanwhile, UUP MEP Jim Nicholson said that the successors of Spelman and Paice were taking up their posts at a “critical time” in European negotiations.
Mr Nicholson said: “Whatever the Prime Minister’s reasons for making this decision removing the two key negotiators responsible for representing the UK during the reform of the CAP at this juncture in the process is surprising.
“Since being appointed as Secretary of State in 2010 I have worked closely with Caroline Spelman and have worked with Jim Paice in both his government post and previously in his shadow DEFRA role.
While we may not have always agreed on issues both politicians proved willing to roll up their sleeves either domestically or in Europe, one example being their active role in building a consensus to counteract the Commission’s ‘greening’ proposals.
I want to thank both Caroline and Jim for their work in DEFRA and wish them well for the future.
“Negotiations regarding the reform of the CAP and CFP plus other work in Europe and at home continue however and I want to congratulate Owen Paterson and David Heath on their new roles.
Owen Paterson has an interest in and knowledge of agriculture and fisheries from his time as a Shadow DEFRA Minister and takes up this portfolio at a critical time given the on-going negotiations in Europe and I look forward to working with him and his team in the days ahead.”