Cattle farmer David Blackmore, who produces Australia’s most famous beef, Blackmore wagyu, is fighting to stay on his property in regional Victoria after the local council recently denied him approval to continue raising cattle on the land.
On June 24 the Murrindindi Shire council rejected the Blackmore family’s application for an intensive animal husbandry permit, following a series of objections, despite the council’s planning department recommending the permit be approved.
As the deadline approached this week for Blackmore to decide whether to sell up and leave because the council’s verdict rendered the farm unviable, or lodge an appeal with the Victorian Civil Administration Tribunal, the state government intervened as it faces an increasing number of “right to farm” conflicts.
Planning minister Richard Wynne “called in” the Blackmore case, also announcing plans for an advisory committee to look at the issues facing animal farmers.
“Calling in Mr Blackmore’s case is the first step in my assessment, which I will make with advice from the planning department. I will not pre-empt the final outcome,” Wynne said.
“Planning laws need to keep pace with changes to farming, we are making sure rules around farmland underpin one of Victoria’s most vital industries.”
The issue came to a head after a neighbour on a small allotment next to the farm complained about noise and odours emanating from the Blackmore farm, where around 1350 cattle are fattened on pasture using a grain supplement to produce the intramuscular fat marbling wagyu beef is famed for. Noise from cockatoos attracted to the farm was among the complaints.
Chef Neil Perry, who started an online petition calling for the Victorian government to support Blackmore, which has attracted more than 125,000 signatures, said he was “thankful that a little bit of sanity has prevailed”, but wondered why the Andrews government had taken several weeks to intervene.
“Everyone saw the ridiculous nature of the council’s decision, but it took an awfully long time for the government to put its hand up,” Perry said
“Farmers should be safe to do what they’re doing and David Blackmore is one of the best when it comes to setting the standard for ethical and sustainable farming.”
Victorian Farmers Federation president Peter Tuohey said Blackmore’s fight had galvanised public support.
“I think all farmers would be proud to see so many Australians supporting farmer rights,” he said. “I’m just delighted to see farmers getting the wider public recognition they deserve, at a time when there’s so much on us from all fronts.”
The VFF is lobbying the government to look at a range of issues the agriculture industry grapples with, including greater transparency for planning permit requirements and more support for farmers in areas zoned agriculture.
Despite the government action, David Blackmore remained wary when he spoke to Business Insider, saying the minister’s decision was “a reprieve, nothing more”.
He hopes the new committee will protect the farming “workplace” in the way other industries are given rights.
“The minister has the opportunity to change 30-year-old, out of date legislation and introduce new regulations that are up to date with best practice, innovative, modern farming methods, at the same time making it clear in the regulations that people moving to the country for lifestyle choices, must expect everyday farm activity and that legislation is in place to protect the farmers right to farm,” Blackmore said
“Federal and state governments are calling on farmers to double production. It stands to reason that there is no extra land, so farmers will need to intensify, at the same time farming sustainably, protecting the environment, our soils and water, and enhancing animal welfare.”
Blackmore’s waygu is served by some of the world’s greatest chefs, including US chefs Thomas Keller and Wolfgang Puck, and England’s Heston Blumenthal. It sells for up to $200kg retail.
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