The Tories have unveiled a five-point plan to boost farming research and development.
Lord Taylor, the Conservative spokesman in the House of Lords, set out the plans at the opening of a new research unit at Harper Adams University College in Shropshire.
The party’s priority, if elected, would be to promote private-sector investment in agricultural research.
The existing DEFRA budget would have a new emphasis on R&D and would be bolstered by a broader source of funding, Lord Taylor said.
He also pledged to re-invigorate applied research with greater representation from the food and farming industry on the committees where decisions would be taken on public-sector research.
Lord Taylor said the message from research would be translated through a network of demonstration farms, inviting commercial farmers to trial technologies and showcase them to other producers, growers and advisers.
And farm inspections would be shifted away from enforcement to visits with an advisory emphasis, helping farmers to comply with regulations.
The Conservatives’ promise also included reforming skills and apprenticeship training, providing assistance to businesses which may have difficulty in meeting the costs of hiring and training apprentices.
Finally Lord Taylor outlined the need to use the UK’s R&D knowledge to help drive agricultural progress across the globe.
Lord Taylor was joined by shadow DEFRA secretary Nick Herbert who said that the government must create the conditions under which [farming] could succeed, in tune with nature and in truly open markets.
“There is little doubt that science, technological innovation and knowledge exchange will have a pivotal role in helping us meet this challenge.
“We must increase food production at the same time as we promote the natural resources upon which food security ultimately depends.
“With science as our ally, we can help farmers and land managers to exploit them.”
The R&D announcement coincided with the opening of the university college’s Postgraduate and Professional Development Centre. The centre has a range of facilities designed to support students and those undertaking other professional development courses.
Tory R&D Strategy
• Encourage private sector investment
• Reinvigorate applied research
• Translate research into practical benefits
• Train farmers and growers
• Drive research progress across the world