All too often we take grass for granted – it’s just ‘there’ and it grows, gets mowed, trampled, sat on, used as the setting for us to score the winning goal or hit the ball out of the ground.

But for farmers and those who wish to enhance our environment grass is much more.

West Midlands MEP Anthea McIntyre visited Inkberrow-based DLF Trifolium, the UK’s largest and fastest growing grass seed company, at one of their plant breeding stations at Hailes Farm near Didbrook to see for herself the work being done to improve the seeds for agricultural, amenity and domestic use.

 “I knew that some grasses were more hard-wearing than others and that some grew faster than others but I was staggered to learn so much more about grass and the huge amount of science that lies behind the seeds available.  I was astonished to learn that it can take up to 18 years to breed a single new strain of grass.”

“From special mixes for cattle or sheep to Game Cover, Root Crops and Mixtures and Stewardship Mixtures - the range is comprehensive and includes products for Green Manuring and much more.

“The work done by DLF Trifolium is amazing and I am very grateful to Laurence Scowen, the MD of DLF Trifolium and all his staff for showing me a little about this important but oft-overlooked aspect of the UK’s agricultural industry.”

(Photograph shows Anthea McIntyre MEP (right) with (l to r) Dr Penny Mapleston, Chief Executive of the British Society of Plant Breeders Ltd (BSPB), Tony Strickland (UK Technical Manager and Plant Breeder) and Laurence Scowen (Managing Director) looking at trail beds at DLF Trifolium)

One of the UK farming industry’s largest sectors is poultry – the sector employs around 55,000 people in all aspects of the business and half of the meals with meat we eat involve chicken, turkey, duck or goose.

As a part of her on-going ‘Farm to Fork’ initiative, West Midlands MEP, Anthea McIntyre visited one of the region’s farmers raising chickens and then went on to a Hereford-based leading supplier of poultry products.

The first visit was to Stuart Perkins of Upper House Farm, Moreton-on-Lugg.  Stuart and his team raise 265,000 chickens approximately every 40 days. 

As they grow, the birds are free to roam and forage throughout the rearing house, eating and drinking as they wish. The birds are given a healthy, scientifically formulated diet, clean water, a comfortable temperature and fresh air in well lit surroundings, with good space for movement, all of which benefit their welfare.

Good stockmanship is fundamental. Trained personnel inspect the birds in the house every day, usually checking two or three times. They walk the entire length of the floor, up and down, inspecting the birds in all parts of the house, using their training and experience to pick out any birds which require attention.

Strict hygiene control (biosecurity) is a key part of all poultry farming with stringent procedures in place throughout the life of the flock to prevent or control any disease entering the flock (see photo 1 below).

Once at the optimum weight, the chickens are taken to Hereford-based Cargill Meats Europe, a major buyer of poultry products raised in the county and surrounding areas.

Cargill’s offer their clients both primary and further processing facilities and employ the latest techniques to ensure the quality and traceability of the food-stuffs they provide.

“Seeing each stage of the process, from the rearing through to processed meat ready for sale was fascinating and I am particularly grateful to John Reed, Agricultural Director of the British Poultry Council for arranging these two visits for me.

“Herefordshire’s diverse farming and food processing sectors are critically important and these visits once again demonstrated the care taken to ensure the highest welfare standards at every stage of the cycle.”  

(Photograph shows (l to r) John Reed (Agricultural Director of the British Poultry Council), Anthea McIntyre MEP and Ian Marshall (Production Manager, Cargill’s Hereford).)

Blending care for the environment with commercial farming was the topic under discussion at the latest meeting of the Herefordshire Conservative Business Forum.

Meeting at the Pengethley Manor Hotel, members and guests of HCBF heard from Patrick Wrixon, the recently-elected President of EISA (the European Initiative for Sustainable Development in Agriculture).

Drawing on his near-40 year experience of farming at Devereux Wootton, Mr Wrixon explained how every facet of his business is underpinned by his interest in biodiversity and conservation and he went on to talk about the range of alternative energy projects that the farm incorporates.  The farm now boasts an eight-kilometre permissive access path, enjoyed by walkers and riders alike; 130 acres of land are given over to environmental measures including an area of wetlands and has been adopted by Natural England as an exemplar to demonstrate and promote the Higher Level Stewardship scheme to other farmers.

“The vast majority of framers and growers have long-recognised their responsibilities as stewards of the land and our flora and fauna.  Nowadays more and more consumers are expressing their support by deciding to buy foodstuffs produced by agri-environmental businesses,” said HCBF Chairman and MEP, Anthea McIntyre.

“I am delighted that Patrick was able to share his practical experiences with our members and to show that caring for the environment is not only the right thing to do but makes good commercial sense as well .”

(Photograph shows  (l to r) Patrick Wrixon, Anthea McIntyre MEP and David Price from the CLA.)

Students undertaking Business Studies courses at Dudley College got the chance to quiz a panel of politicians and others on a wide range of issues on Friday, 22nd March 2013.

The panel included Anthea McIntyre MEP, the Conservative Employment Spokesman in Europe, and local MP, Ian Austin.

The fifty students at the event were particular interested to explore how politicians and their decisions affect businesses.  The range of questions encompassed many topics with particular emphasis on how more businesses could emulate the success of Jaguar Land Rover, barriers to employment such as the Working Time Directive, and the business-friendly measures in the Budget.

“The Chancellor’s decision to reduce the Employer’s National Insurance Contribution by £2,000 should encourage many more firms to take on additional staff.” said Miss McIntyre.

“It has been estimated that this one measure could lead to the creation of many thousands of new jobs and, alongside other announcements such as the scrapping of the 3p fuel duty increase, show that the Government is pulling out all the stops to get the British economy moving.”

The event, organised by Business Studies Tutor, Michael Bickley, was a great success and likely to become an annual event.

“I am always delighted to take part in events of this type and to hear from those who will, in the future, be running Britain’s businesses, large and small.” Commented Miss McIntyre.

(Photograph shows Anthea McIntyre MEP with Michael Bickley of Dudley College.)

The recent vote by the European Parliament to support a package of ‘reform’ proposals has been called a major step-back to the days of wide-spread intervention and protectionism by Conservative MEPs.

Speaking at a breakfast meeting of Herefordshire Conservative Business Forum, the Conservative Agriculture spokesman, Julie Girling, called the majority of measures “retrograde”.

 MEPs had pored over the outcome of hundreds of detailed amendments and votes on the minutiae of the package, she said: "This was a golden opportunity so set up a fairer and less wasteful system but that opportunity has been squandered.
 
“In some areas Conservative pressure has led to better proposals but overall the MEPs have ended up approving something less fair for British farmers, less helpful to consumers and less supportive of the environment and biodiversity.

“The whole reform package needed to be more market-oriented and less interventionist. Instead we will continue to see French farmers enjoying much more favourable terms than their British counterparts. We will continue to see inadequate support and encouragement for more-efficient medium-to-large farms. Worse than that, we will see a return to the bad old days of butter mountains, wine lakes and rampant intervention which destroys any realistic market and punishes consumers."

West Midlands MEP, Anthea McIntyre, who hosted the Business Forum event, said:

“Once again the EU has failed to grasp the nettle of reform and has instead opted to turn the clock back to a system that failed farmers, consumers and the environment.

“The battle isn’t over.  Although our task has been made harder by this decision, there should be no doubt that Conservative MEPs will keep working to achieve a better deal for our farmers, for families and flora and fauna .”

(Photograph shows Anthea McIntyre MEP with Julie Girling MEP and John Mercer, NFU Regional Director.)