BERLIN Feb 17 Angela Merkel's Bavarian allies
chose defence expert Christian Schmidt on Monday to replace the
agriculture minister who quit the German chancellor's cabinet
after leaking information about a lawmaker being investigated
for possessing child pornography.
Schmidt comes from the Christian Social Union (CSU), the
Bavarian sister party to Merkel's Christian Democrats, as does
Hans-Peter Friedrich, who was forced to resign last Friday for
leaking the information when he was interior minister.
German head of state Joachim Gauck will swear in the new
minister later on Monday, the president's office said.
Schmidt, 56, was a deputy defence minister from 2005 to the
end of last year, when he was named deputy development minister
in the new coalition government between the conservatives and
the Social Democrats (SPD).
Schmidt is a lawyer and has not held previous government
posts related to farming, although part of his constituency in
the southern state of Bavaria is rural.
Among the important issues the new minister will have to
address will be whether Germany should permit cultivation of
crops with genetically-modified organisms (GMOs).
The coalition formed in December has been unable to agree on
the issue. Former German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner took a
tough stand against GM cultivation but she has left the
government to return to local politics.
On Feb. 5, the government decided to abstain in a European
Union vote to approve cultivation of a new type of GMO maize.
The new minister must also settle how Germany implements the
next round of EU farm subsidy reform, in which subsidies will be
switched away from large farms towards smaller farms and to
environmental protection schemes. Germany has many large farms,
especially in the east.
German milk farmers are exceeding their EU milk production
The new minister will also face pressure to reduce blanket
cultivation of maize in parts of the country for biofuel