UK: Suffolk-born MP Jim Paice scoops Farming Champion award

Ex-Farming Minister Jim Paice was crowned 2012 Farming Champion at an awards ceremony in London last night.

Suffolk-born and Writtle College-educated Mr Paice, who is MP for South East Cambridgeshire and lost his post in a recent Government reshuffle, scooped the Farmer’s Weekly accolade for “working tirelessly to find practical solution for British farming”.

But three Suffolk farmers who made it to the finals in other categories left empty-handed.

David and Jill Robinson, near Woodbridge, were vying for the Pig Farmer of the Year title, Andy Rankin, near Woodbridge, was battling it out to become Farm Manager of the Year, and Andrew Francis, of the Elveden Estate, near Thetford, was hoping to scoop the Diversification Farmer of the Year award.

“He’s a politician who has worked tirelessly to find practical solutions for British farming. Some of his decisions have not always found favour in the traditional heartland of farming, but few can doubt his intention to do his best for the industry that he has worked, and lived, in all his life,” judges said.

“He tackled the Rural Payments Agency debacle, the market imbalance in the dairy industry, a badger cull to control bovine tuberculosis, red tape, and has been at the heart of Common Agricultural Policy negotiations.

“All have been thorns in the sides of previous farm ministers who either ducked these tough issues or failed to understand their significance.

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“Farming was all too often fobbed-off with political platitudes and left with no voice.

“But Mr Paice’s approach has been different. His knowledge of the industry as a working farmer has ensured that issues at the grass roots of farming have been championed at the highest of negotiating tables and tackled with guts and determination.”

National Farmers’ Union (NFU) President Peter Kendall said: “I am delighted for Jim to receive this award. He has taken farming to the heart of government and helped achieve many key policies and agreements, which has put farmers in a better place in the future.

“He threatened to ‘bang heads together’ across the entire dairy chain in the search for a long-term solution to milk pricing; he stuck his neck out on the badger cull and even attempted to unpick the chaos of the rural payments agency.

“As an MP with practical farming experience, this means he’s never been easily fooled. During his time as Minister of Agriculture he was a ‘critical friend’ of the industry as demonstrated at the London dairy summit in July. He has definitely been farming’s biggest ally in Parliament.”