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Agriculture key industry for defence, says ex-Defra Secretary Hilary Benn

Former Defra Secretary Hilary Benn has said he is convinced agriculture should be considered a key industry for defence, in the same way as steel.

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Agriculture key industry for defence, says ex-Defra Secretary Hilary Benn #LabConf18

Mr Benn made the remarks during an NFU drinks reception at the Labour Party conference in Liverpool.

 

He led the department from 2007-2010, when Gordon Brown was Prime Minister, and in his current role as chair of the Brexit select committee has repeatedly grilled Cabinet Ministers on the impact leaving the EU will have on farmers.

 

Welcoming the NFU to the conference, Mr Benn said: “I look back at my time in Defra, and you had the most profound influence upon me when the drought occurred in 2008.

 

“I reflected on that and the Treasury view, which is basically do not worry, we can go shopping in the global supermarket, it does not really matter whether we have a domestic farming industry.


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“That is profoundly mistaken. Both because farmers are the guardians of the countryside and the landscape, because you produce a lot of our food and in the long run, we really cannot take you for granted.

 

“Since that time, I have regarded farming as a strategic industry, just as important as the steel industry, just as important in producing things you might need to defend yourselves.”

 

Mr Benn’s comments follow repeated warnings from the NFU to take food security more seriously as Brexit approaches.

 

Both deputy president Guy Smith and vice president Stuart Roberts have written for Farmers Guardian’s Brexit hub calling on Government to ensure the UK does not pursue a cheap food policy which would leave the country dependent on lower quality imports.

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