Practical measures for harnessing cutting edge technology on farms were on the agenda at a high-level conference organised by Anthea McIntyre MEP.
Experts from a range of scientific, engineering, and agricultural disciplines gathered in Ross-on-Wye to discuss how advances in areas such as big data, precision farming and robotics can be converted into greater productivity, sustainability and profitability for farmers and growers.
Miss McIntyre, MEP for the West Midlands and Conservative Agriculture spokesman in the European Parliament, convened the conference at the Royal Hotel to consider the next steps needed following her parliamentary report on Tech logical Solutions for Sustainable Agriculture.
She said: “Policy-makers, academia and industry, breeders, the agro-chemicals sector, farmers and food manufacturers must all work together to improve the translation of research into practice. From lab to farm to fork.
“We need to make sure politicians and governments properly understand the imperative to let expertise and experience feed through into real advances in breeding, tools, techniques.”
Sessions covered issues including conservation farming, genetic modification and gene editing, genetic diversity and crop wild relatives, innovation and plant protection.
Expert speakers included Professor Pat Heslop-Harrison of Leicester University, Dr Nigel Maxted of Birmingham University, Dr Nicola Cannon of the Royal Agriculture University, Dr Rosemary Collier of Warwick Crop Centre, John Chinn of the Centre for Crop Health and Protection and Jon Knight of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.
Senior MEPs have launched an urgent appeal to halt the execution by the Iranian authorities of an innocent member of a persecuted religious minority.

Led by British MEP Anthea Mcintyre, the politicians are calling on Iran to stop the execution of Yavar Mohammed Salas and order a retrial after he was sentenced to death by the Iranian Supreme Court last week.

She is gathering signatures from MEPs of all nationalities and across the political spectrum for a letter insisting Iran's leadership must stop the hanging and conduct a fair trial.

Supporters say Mr Salas, a Gonabi Dervish, was wrongly convicted of the murder of three police officers when the case against him remained incomplete and unsubstantiated. Eyewitness and photographic evidence establishing his innocence was ignored by the court, while an alleged confession was extracted under duress.

Miss McIntyre, Conservative MEP for the West Midlands, said: "It appears Mr Salas was denied proper legal representation and that his trial violated the Iranian constitution and penal code.

"We say there must be no execution and this man must be allowed his right to a fair trial. We also condemn the suppression of religious and ethnic minorities, and the persecution of Gonabadi Dervishes in Iran, and call for the immediate release of detainees who have been imprisoned because of their beliefs."
The anti-hate campaign West Midlands Together is planning to build on the success of its youth conference held in February
Proposals for two further youth events were outlined when the campaign's steering group met in Birmingham.
One will be held in Herefordshire in September - partly focusing on incidents of hate crime against eastern Europeans and others in that county and in Worcestershire.
The other will be a second region-wide youth conference, to be staged in the West Midlands conurbation in early 2018 with the intention of making it an annual event.
West Midlands Together is a cross-party organisation to promote tolerance and harmony. It was launched by Conservative MEP Anthea McIntyre and her Labour colleague Neena Gill following a spike in hate crime following the Brexit referendum.
 Miss McIntyre said: "Our steering group reviewed the February event - which was so vibrant and inspiring - and decided this work with young people must continue.
"We already had one request to bring a version of the youth event to Herefordshire, which will help to demonstrate hate crime is a problem too in rural areas and smaller towns and cities.
 "So we decided to go ahead with that as a one-off and to work to establish the region-wide conference as an annual event.
"The young people we have worked with were so energetic, so committed and so honest that it was clear we had to carry on showcasing that energy."
Further details of both events will be unveiled later this year.

Measures unveiled today by the European Commission to tackle unfair practices in the food supply chain are an important step forward, according to Conservative Agriculture spokesman Anthea McIntyre.

The proposed directive aims to protect farmers and suppliers from practices including the cancellation of contracts for fresh produce at short notice, late payments by retailers and by demanding more clarity in agreements.

It draws on the experience of the UK's Groceries Code Adjudicator, a position created in 2013 to re-evaluate the relationship between supermarkets and their suppliers.

Miss McIntyre told MEPs today that she warmly welcomed the Commission's proposals.

She said:  "Farmers don't always get a fair price and they don't always get fair treatment. Processors and supermarkets are often those who take the lion's share of the profit when of course they wouldn't take any profit at all were it not for the raw commodity provided by the farmers.

"The UK adjudicator is a very good example of how to make progress in this area and I am pleased to hear the Commission has used it as a model.  When the system was set up one of the worst practices I came across was of farmers being charged by supermarkets for replying to customers who wrote complementing the quality of a product.  

"Proof of the effectiveness of the adjudicator is that the number of complaints and issues raised by farmers has reduced year on year."

Introducing the proposed directive today, Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan confirmed the UK "had been specifically looked at in drawing up this proposal."

He added: "Companies have come into line as a result of the work of the groceries adjudicator."

Mr Hogan stressed the EU measures would complement, not replace, steps already taken by Member States.

Britain will remain a magnet for cutting edge research in agricultural techniques, a leading MEP told farming technologists this week.

Anthea McIntyre MEP also predicted that the UK government would put science at the forefront of future environment and agriculture policies.

Miss McIntyre, Conservative agriculture spokesman in Brussels, was addressing the Association of Agricultural Engineers in London on Tuesday.

She said that the recent government publication A Green Future had highlighted how scientific knowledge would be at the heart of any future regulation alongside a focus on Integrated Pest Management for a more holistic approach.

Miss McIntyre outlined her series of reports on harnessing emerging technology to improve productivity and environmental protection, and said:  "The UK is a global leader in science and innovation - these developments in precision farming are right on our doorstep.

"My region the West Midlands recently grew the world’s first entire crop using nothing but robot tractors and drones.

"This Hands Free Hectare, led by Harper Adams University and Precision Decisions, successfully grew a crop which was seeded, sprayed, monitored and harvested using off-the-shelf technology and open source software. This is the future for farming.

"We are in the early days of the big data and agri-tech revolution. I’m hoping that with the right regulation and political will, the big winners of this revolution will be the producers, the environment, small farmers and consumers."

Miss McIntyre said a promising sign for the UK in maintaining its status as a world leader in technology came last week when it was awarded more research grants than any other country, by the European Research Council in its 2018 Advanced Grants. These prestigious EU grants, she said, were worth a total of €653m.

“The results are a remarkable success for Britain, which comes out well ahead of other countries, both in the nationality of the successful scientists and in the location of the university or research centre where they will work.”

The UK took 66 of the 269 awards, followed by Germany with 42 and France with 34.

She said: “It is very reassuring, that despite Brexit, we clearly remain a favourite destination for top European research funds.

“The figures demonstrate the strength of UK science. When funds are allocated purely on excellence, as European Research Council Advanced Grants are, Britain emerges as Europe’s top scientific venue.

"Both the UK and EU have a huge stake in maintaining a very close relationship in research and innovation after Brexit. I hope we will continue with the same level of participation in European research programmes, as we currently have with Horizon 2020.”

Miss McIntyre also referred to the European Parliament’s new special committee on pesticides, set up in the wake of the reauthorisation of glyphosate, the widely used weedkiller.

She said: “Glyphosate has been proved to be perfectly safe and is so important in progressive farming techniques. Decisions need to be based on scientific evidence not political bias."