Ian Potter scoops prestigious dairy award

Milk quoter trader and National Fallen Stock Scheme administrator Ian Potter has been presented with the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers’ Princess Royal Award for his outstanding services to the industry.

Mr Potter, who is well-known in the industry for being one of the most innovative and noted milk quota brokers in Europe, as well as a renowned commentator within the dairy industry, was presented with the award by Princess Anne at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday this week (23 March).

It was his unique role within the industry as a disseminator of up-to-date information through his website, his regular press articles and his skill at getting to the heart of the matter for the benefit of all that scooped him the prestigious award, said RABDF chairman, David Cotton.

Mr Potter explained how part of his role over the last 25 years had been to “stimulate discussion and uncover some truths”, something he said not everyone liked.

He reflected at the ceremony how the industry had changed over the past 25 years and said the average dairy farmer had become far more specialised and business-like – something he put down partly to the demise of the Milk Marketing Board.

“The demise of the MMB was a catalyst for more professional dairy farmers and now they understand a lot more about what happens to their milk beyond the farmgate.”

He also explained how the web had made farmers more aware of the world market and the influencers of milk price. “The internet has had a huge influence,” he said. “When we first started our weekly bulletin it was communicated via fax, now we only send out four by fax and 8000 on email.”

But he said more needed to be done when it came to communication – especially communication to the consumer. He said the industry had to “get to grips” with communication and could not rely on individual dairy farmers to do this. “The average dairy farmer is good at milking cows, but not good at communication.”

He also said DairyCo, as the levy body, would have to be at the heart of a change for communication, and he called for a cross-industry communication group to be set up – particularly in view of recent and forthcoming events such as Nocton and the proposed badger cull.

He blamed the industry for being too reactive. “Take the NFU dairy board – they are too reactive to things, we need them to be more proactive,” he said. He also said the industry needed to move away from painting a fairytale image of dairying to being more realistic.

Looking forward, Mr Potter questioned the long-term benefit of dedicated contracts and admitted he was cautious of them. “I believe, irrespective of commodity prices, we will never see a situation where dedicated price is lower than the standard litre price. I firmly believe there’s an unwritten rule that this can’t happen. Those on dedicated prices may view them as good, but are they just a one-way ticket to hell? The jury’s still out,” he said.

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