Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is the government department responsible for environmental protection, food production and standards, agriculture, fisheries and rural communities in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Concordats set out agreed frameworks for co operation, between it and the Scottish Government,[2] Welsh Government[3] and Northern Ireland Executive,[4] which have devolved responsibilities for these matters in their respective nations.

Defra also leads for Britain at the EU on agricultural, fisheries and environment matters and in other international negotiations on sustainable development and climate change, although a new Department of Energy and Climate Change was created on 3 October 2008 to take over the last responsibility; later transferred to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy following Theresa May's appointment as Prime Minister in July 2016.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs logo
Department overview
Preceding agencies
JurisdictionUnited Kingdom
Headquarters2 Marsham Street, London
Annual budget£2.2 billion (current) & £400 million (capital) for 2011-12[1]
Ministers responsible
Department executive
  • Tamara Finkelstein, Acting Permanent Secretary
Child agencies


It was formed in June 2001, under the leadership of Margaret Beckett, when the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) was merged with part of the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) and with a small part of the Home Office.

The department was created after the perceived failure of MAFF, to deal adequately with an outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease. The department had about 9,000 core personnel, as of January 2008.[5]

In October 2008, the climate team at Defra was merged with the energy team from the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), to create the Department of Energy and Climate Change, then headed by Ed Miliband.[6]


The Defra Ministers are as follows:[7][8]

Minister Rank Portfolio
The Rt Hon. Michael Gove MP Secretary of State Strategy and overall responsibility for departmental policy; Budget and finances; Legislative programme; Emergencies; EU and international relations; Environment Agency and Natural England
Robert Goodwill MP Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries & Food food and farming, including CAP (Common Agricultural Policy), apprenticeships, exports, and bovine TB (tuberculosis) policy; fisheries; better regulation; science and innovation
Thérèse Coffey MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Environment natural environment, including biodiversity, the marine environment, and international wildlife trafficking; forestry, 25 Year Environment Plan; floods, water and waterways; air quality; resource and environment management
David Rutley MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Food & Animal Welfare EU exit readiness; food chain - with the lead for Food and Drink Industrial Strategy; animal welfare; forestry; climate change adaptation
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Rural Affairs & Biosecurity rural ambassador and rural affairs, covering rural life opportunities, broadband and mobile; biosecurity strategy, including endemic and exotic plant and animal disease, invasive alien species and Kew Gardens; animal health and welfare; commercial projects; landscape, including national parks; climate change adaptation; National Pollinator Strategy; all Defra parliamentary business in the House of Lords

The Permanent Secretary is Clare Moriarty.[9]

Shadow ministers portfolios can differ from government departments therefore overlap.


Defra is responsible for British Government policy in the following areas[10]

Some policies apply to England alone due to devolution, while others are not devolved and therefore apply to Britain as a whole.

Executive agencies

The department's executive agencies are:[11]

Key delivery partners

The department's key delivery partners are:[14]

A full list of departmental delivery and public bodies may be found on the Defra website.[17]

Defra in the English regions

Countryside Stewardship Scheme sign - - 726323
A Countryside Stewardship Scheme sign near a new stile a Cratfield, Suffolk

Policies for environment, food and rural affairs are delivered in the regions by Defra's executive agencies and delivery bodies, in particular Natural England, the Rural Payments Agency, Animal Health and the Marine Management Organisation.

Defra provides grant aid to the following flood and coastal erosion risk management operating authorities:

Aim and strategic priorities

Defra's overarching aim is sustainable development, which is defined as "development which enables all people throughout the world to satisfy their basic needs and enjoy a better quality of life without compromising the quality of life of future generations." The Secretary of State wrote in a letter to the Prime Minister that he saw Defra’s mission as enabling a move toward what the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has called "one planet living".[18]

Under this overarching aim, Defra has five strategic priorities:[19]

  • Climate change and energy.
  • Sustainable consumption and production, including responsibility for the National Waste Strategy.
  • Protecting the countryside and natural resource protection.
  • Sustainable rural communities.
  • A sustainable farming and food sector including animal health and welfare.

See also


  1. ^ Budget 2011 (PDF). London: HM Treasury. 2011. p. 48. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 August 2011. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
  2. ^ "Concordat between MAFF and the Scottish Executive". Archived from the original on 8 February 2011.
  3. ^ "Concordat between MAFF and the Cabinet of the National Assembly for Wales". Archived from the original on 23 February 2006.
  4. ^ "Devolution: Subject specific Concordat between MAFF and the Scottish Executive on fisheries". Archived from the original on 20 November 2008.
  5. ^ "Defra departmental report" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 June 2008.
  6. ^ Harrabin, Roger (3 October 2008). "Marrying energy demand and supply". BBC News. Retrieved 22 May 2009.
  7. ^ "Our ministers". GOV.UK. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
  8. ^ "Her Majesty's Official Opposition". UK Parliament. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  9. ^ [1], Defra
  10. ^ "Cabinet Office List of Ministerial Responsibilities, July 2010". 16 September 2010. Retrieved 18 November 2011.
  11. ^ "List of ministerial responsibilities (including Executive Agencies and Non-Ministerial Departments)" (PDF). Retrieved 18 November 2011.
  12. ^ "DEFRA Agencies shake-up", news release by DEFRA, 29 June 2010 (from the DEFRA website)
  13. ^ "Launch of Animal Health", news release by Animal Health, 2 April 2007 (from the Defra website)
  14. ^ "Working with others: Defra's delivery partners", Chapter 6, Departmental Report 2006 (from the Defra website)
  15. ^ "Marine Management Organisation established", press release by Defra, 1 April 2010 (from the Defra website.
  16. ^ "New champion for the environment launches", press release by Natural England, 11 October 2006 (from the Natural England website)
  17. ^ "Delivery Landscape Map". Archived from the original on 29 April 2007.
  18. ^ "My priorities for Defra", David Miliband's letter to the Prime Minister, 11 July 2006
  19. ^ "Delivering the Essentials of Life: Defra’s Five Year Strategy", Annex B

External links

Video clips

AHDB Potatoes

AHDB Potatoes, previously known as the Potato Council, is a trade organisation that aims to develop and promote the potato industry in Great Britain. Previously an independent non-departmental public body, it has been a division of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board since 1 April 2008.

Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) is a levy board funded by farmers and growers and some other parts of the supply chain. It plays a vital role in improving farm business efficiency and competitiveness in the areas of: pigs, beef and lamb production in England; milk, potatoes and horticulture in Great Britain; and cereals and oilseeds in the UK.

It undertakes research and development and farm-level knowledge transfer activity, provides essential market information to improve supply chain transparency and undertakes marketing promotion activities to help stimulate demand and to develop export markets. These are activities which most individual farm businesses could not afford to do themselves.

Animal and Plant Health Agency

The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), formerly known as the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA), is an executive agency of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) of the United Kingdom.

It was formed in its current state on 1 October 2014, when AHVLA was expanded by adding parts of the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA), including the Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate (PHSI). AHVLA had originally been established on 1 April 2011 by a merger of two former agencies, Animal Health and the Veterinary Laboratories Agency.

The agency's main task is to protect the health and welfare of animals, as well as the general public, from disease. It conducts work across Great Britain on behalf of Defra, the Scottish Government and the Welsh Government.The agency's total expenditure for the fiscal year 2016/17 was £217.3 million. This was offset by operating income of £62.6 million giving net expenditure of £154.7 million.

British Waterways

British Waterways, often shortened to BW, was a statutory corporation wholly owned by the government of the United Kingdom. It served as the navigation authority for the majority of canals and a number of rivers and docks in England, Scotland and Wales.On 2 July 2012 all of British Waterways' assets and responsibilities in England and Wales were transferred to the newly founded charity the Canal & River Trust. In Scotland, British Waterways continues to operate as a standalone public corporation under the trading name Scottish Canals.

The British Waterways Board was initially established as a result of the Transport Act 1962 and took control of the inland waterways assets of the British Transport Commission in 1963. British Waterways was sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in England and Wales, and by the Scottish Government in Scotland.British Waterways managed and maintained 2,200 miles (3,541 km) of canals, rivers and docks within the United Kingdom including the buildings, structures and landscapes alongside these waterways. Half of the United Kingdom population lives within five miles of a canal or river once managed by British Waterways. In addition to the watercourses, British Waterways also cared for and owned 2,555 listed structures including seventy scheduled ancient monuments. A further 800 areas have special designation and a further hundred are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).

Through its charitable arm The Waterways Trust, British Waterways maintained a museum of its history at the National Waterways Museum's three sites at Gloucester Docks, Stoke Bruerne and Ellesmere Port. Since the transfer of the assets and responsibilities of British Waterways to the Canal & River Trust the Waterways Trust in England and Wales has merged with the Canal & River Trust. It continues, however, as an independent charity in Scotland.

Consumer Council for Water

The Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) is a non-departmental public body whose sponsor department is Defra. CCWater is independent of both the regulator, Ofwat, and the water companies.

CCWater represents the interests of water and sewerage consumers in England and Wales. The organisation provides impartial advice and/or advocacy for aggrieved customers. It has a remit to support both household customers of water companies and business customers of licensed retailers.

There are four regional committees in England (Northern, Central & Eastern, London & South East and Western) and one in Wales. Each committee oversees water companies and licensed retailers in their area. The head office is in Victoria Square House, Victoria Square, Birmingham and a second office is in Cardiff.

In March 2010, CCWater added an online Consumer Support site where users can have their own questions/enquiries answered which can be accessed via its website at

Drinking Water Inspectorate

The Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) is a section of Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) set up to regulate the public water supply companies in England and Wales.

Based in Whitehall, it produces an annual report showing the quality of and problems associated with drinking water. Its remit is to assess the quality of drinking water in England and Wales, taking enforcement action if standards are not being met, and appropriate action when water is unfit for human consumption.It is also responsible for reporting on drinking water quality to the European Union under the European Drinking Water Directive (DWD), Council Directive 98/83/EC, which concerns the quality of water intended for human consumption. In addition, it provides advice to DEFRA on the transposition of European water legislation in England and Wales.

List of United Kingdom food and drink products with protected status

A number of United Kingdom food and drink products have been granted Protected Geographical Status under European Union law. Protection of geographical indications under EU law is granted to names that indicate geographical origin both inside and outside the EU. A number of geographical indications for food and drink products originating in the Crown dependencies, which are not part of the UK and not part of the EU, are also protected under EU law. These are also listed in this article.

The stated purpose of the EU quality schemes is to protect the reputation of regional products, promote traditional and agricultural activity and to eliminate non-genuine products, which may mislead consumers or be of inferior or different character; for example, producers cannot refer to their product as Scotch whisky unless it has been produced within Scotland, following particular methods. The EU quality schemes include two types of geographical indicators: "protected designation of origin" (PDO) (which are appellations of origin) and "protected geographical indication" (PGI) (which are geographical indications). These two types of designations are available for food, agricultural products and wines. For spirit drinks and aromatised wine, the equivalent designation to a PGI is called a "geographical indication" (GI). In addition, the quality schemes also include "traditional specialities guaranteed" (TSG), which are designed to promote and protect names of quality agricultural products and foodstuffs without requiring any reference to geographical origin.The United Kingdom and the Crown dependencies together have a total of 65 products with protected status in the EU. This is relatively few when compared with Portugal (125 protected status products), France (217) and Italy (267). However, the UK and Crown dependencies have considerably more designations than many other countries, including Ireland (5), Sweden (6), Turkey (15), Austria (14), or (for example) the United States, Japan or Korea (none). Most of the products hold either PGI (38) or PDO (25) status, with only two products being designated as TSG.

This list, excepting "spirit drinks", is compiled according to the Database of Origin and Registration and E-Bacchus, European Commission databases of all registered products, as well as all products which were formerly registered or for which registration has been applied. The majority of products that hold protected status are foodstuffs fit for human consumption, including cheeses (15), fresh meat and offal (13), meat products (4), fish and molluscs (10), fruit and vegetables (6), wines (4) and spirit drinks (3). While other agricultural products can be included, native Shetland wool is the only non-edible UK product name to hold protected status in the EU.

Meat and Livestock Commission

The Meat and Livestock Commission, (MLC), was set up by the UK Government under the Agriculture Act 1967 with Government money with the remit to promote the sale of red meat. The MLC was previously an independent non-departmental public body, but since 1 April 2008 it has been part of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.

Natural England

Natural England is a non-departmental public body in the United Kingdom sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. It is responsible for ensuring that England's natural environment, including its land, flora and fauna, freshwater and marine environments, geology and soils, are protected and improved. It also has a responsibility to help people enjoy, understand and access the natural environment.

Natural England focuses its activities and resources on four strategic outcomes:

a healthy natural environment

enjoyment of the natural environment

sustainable use of the natural environment

a secure environmental future

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (brand name Kew) is a non-departmental public body in the United Kingdom sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. An internationally important botanical research and education institution, it employs 723 staff (FTE). Its board of trustees is chaired by Marcus Agius, a former chairman of Barclays.

The organisation manages botanic gardens at Kew in Richmond upon Thames in southwest London, and at Wakehurst Place, a National Trust property in Sussex which is home to the internationally important Millennium Seed Bank, whose scientists work with partner organisations in more than 95 countries. Kew, jointly with the Forestry Commission, founded Bedgebury National Pinetum in Kent in 1923, specialising in growing conifers. In 1994 the Castle Howard Arboretum Trust, which runs the Yorkshire Arboretum, was formed as a partnership between Kew and the Castle Howard Estate.In 2018 the organisation had 1,858,513 public visitors at Kew, and 354,957 at Wakehurst. Its 326-acre (132 ha) site at Kew has 40 historically important buildings; it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site on 3 July 2003. The collections at Kew and Wakehurst Place include over 28,000 taxa of living plants, 8.3 million plant and fungal herbarium specimens, and 30,000 species in the seed bank.

Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution

The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution in the United Kingdom was created under Royal Warrant in 1970 to advise the Queen, Government, Parliament and the public on environmental issues. It was closed on 1 April 2011, as part of the Coalition Government's spending cuts.

Rural Payments Agency

The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) is an executive agency of the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). The RPA delivers the European Union (EU) Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments to farmers and traders in England, paying out over £2 billion in subsidies each year. The Agency managing more than 40 schemes, the largest of which the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) paying more than £1.5 billion to around 105,000 claimants a year.Along with paying subsidies the Agency have a number of other roles including managing the British Cattle Movement Service and the Rural Land Register which holds around 2.4 million registered land parcels digitally, and sends land maps to landowners in England.

The Agency is the EU's single paying agency for market support measures across the United Kingdom under Defra authority and as agreed with Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland's Ministers.

RPA works closely with Natural England and the Forestry Commission which are responsible for authorising payments under the Rural Development Programme for England for schemes including Environmental Stewardship and the English Woodland Grant Scheme.

Part of the role of the agency is to issue holding numbers and vendor numbers to landowners in England who wish to take advantage of the various schemes Defra offers.

The RPA publishes an annual business plan which sets out its targets and commitments to its customers, Defra and the taxpayer.

The agency is working closely with Defra towards implementation of the CAP payment schemes.

Sea Fish Industry Authority

The Sea Fish Industry Authority (or Seafish) is a non-departmental public body in the United Kingdom sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Established in 1981, and charged with working with the UK seafood industry to promote good quality, sustainable seafood. Seafish revised its mission in 2018. Its new mission is: "Seafood is the way Forward".

Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, or informally Environment Secretary or DEFRA Secretary, is a United Kingdom Cabinet level position, in charge of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and the successor to the positions of Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions.

As of June 2017, the post is held by former Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor, Michael Gove.

Sustainable Development Commission

The Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) was a non-departmental public body responsible for advising the UK Government, Scottish Government, Welsh Assembly Government, and Northern Ireland Executive on sustainable development.

It was set up by the Labour Government in June 2000 and closed by the Coalition Government in March 2011.

The National Forest (England)

The National Forest is an environmental project in central England run by The National Forest Company. From the 1990s, 200 square miles (520 km2) of north Leicestershire, south Derbyshire and southeast Staffordshire have been planted in an attempt to blend ancient woodland with newly planted areas to create a new national forest. It stretches from the western outskirts of Leicester in the east to Burton upon Trent in the west, and is planned to link the ancient forests of Needwood and Charnwood.

In January 2018, the UK government unveiled plans to create a new Northern Forest stretching from Liverpool to Hull. It will shadow the path of the east-west M62 motorway.

Veterinary Medicines Directorate

The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) is an Executive Agency of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) seeking to protect public health, animal health, the environment and promoting animal welfare by assuring the safety, quality and efficacy of veterinary medicines in the United Kingdom.


Waste (or wastes) are unwanted or unusable materials. Waste is any substance which is discarded after primary use, or is worthless, defective and of no use. A by-product by contrast is a joint product of relatively minor economic value. A waste product may become a by-product, joint product or resource through an invention that raises a waste product's value above zero.

Examples include municipal solid waste (household trash/refuse), hazardous waste, wastewater (such as sewage, which contains bodily wastes (feces and urine) and surface runoff), radioactive waste, and others.

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