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New Ag Boss Faces Conflict

Argentina’s government, which has been locked in a bitter dispute with farmers for 18 months, upgraded its top agricultural position to full ministry status and named a new minister on Sept. 30.

Julian Dominguez, a lawmaker in Buenos Aires Province, was named as agriculture minister and will replace Agriculture Secretary Carlos Cheppi, Cabinet Chief Anibal Fernandez said at a news conference.

“The idea is to raise the status of a task that needs to have a stronger presence than the secretariat has up to now,” Fernandez said.

Outgoing Secretary Cheppi took office in 2008 at the height of the conflict with farmers over President Cristina Fernandez’s policies of taxing and limiting grains exports.

His appointment had originally been seen as a peacemaking gesture since he carried close ties with the farming sector as a former head of the National Institute for Agricultural Technology.

But he was mostly powerless during the dispute as most decisions were taken directly by Fernandez and her husband and predecessor, former president Nestor Kirchner.

Dominguez, a 46-year-old lawmaker with no experience in the farming sector, would be in charge of mending relations with farmers.

The appointment of a politician to the new Agriculture Ministry is seen as a move to try to resolve a conflict that the government considers largely political.

But agricultural industry groups said they want to see a change in policies, not just in officials.

“If policies are along the same line you can create 20 secretariats but results will be the same,” said Ricardo Buryaile, vice-president of the Argentine Rural Confederations industry group.

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