Farmers must be united if they are going to win hearts and minds when it comes to building large-scale dairies, a Welsh producer has said.
Fraser Jones endured a six-year battle, costing £300,000, with local residents and Powys County Council when he applied for planning permission to build a 1,000 cow dairy unit at Lower Leighton Farm, Welshpool.
In 2012 Powys County Council objected to his plans, but following a public inquiry earlier this year, Welsh government planning minister Carl Sargent ruled the build could go ahead because of the economic benefit it would bring.
Speaking of his struggle at the UK Dairy Day event in Telford, Shropshire, Mr Jones said if the UK dairy industry was going to grow to compete on a global scale post-quota, farmers needed to unite.
He said: “Farming is changing. It is becoming more commercial and with quotas going it is going to become more like that.
Mr Jones’ offers his top tips on applying for large scale dairy planning:
- Put yourself in the shoes of the local residents. Think about what the potential problems might be if you lived in one of the houses.
- Be open and honest and try to earn peoples’ respect.
- Take a proactive approach. Don’t wait to be reactive.
- Tackle falsehoods and hearsay. People fear something if they don’t understand it so give them the opportunity to ask you questions by setting up a meeting and tell them anything they want to know.
- Bad stories sell papers. So managing the media is important.
“It grieves me when you have farmers with different production methods slating each others’ production type.
“The public needs to see we are united and supportive of each other.”
Mr Jones said there was “no right or wrong type” of production and all systems should be celebrated.
Mr Jones said schools were key to tackling myths associated with large-scale dairying and criticised the industry for not better educating shoppers.
“Children are our future consumer. It is hugely important we invest time and energy into education from a young age to ensure the industry is understood.
“It shocked me how little people actually understand about dairy farming.
“When I explained things it was evident the majority were actually warming to proposed idea.”
He added farmers also needed to rid themselves of “grumpy farmer” stereotypes and become better at engaging with the general public by being “positive and inviting”.
He said huge progress had been made with the popularity of open farm visits growing, but he said more work still needed to be done.
“The NFU and DairyCo have got a very import role to play in getting messages into the wider press.
“We are part of an exciting and dynamic industry and we should be proud of what we achieve and produce.”