Tory Shadow Minister backs Lincolnshire ‘super dairy’
SHADOW Farming Minister Jim Paice has issued a ringing endorsement to plans to build an 8,100-cow dairy unit in Lincolnshire.
The Cambridgeshire MP described the media furore that has blown up over the proposal as ‘nonsense’ and praised the farmers behind it for showing confidence in the UK dairy industry.
Mr Paice was speaking alongside Liberal Democrat counterpart Roger Williams and UK Independence Party (UKIP) candidate Christopher Gill at an event in Warwickshire organised by the Guild of Agricultural Journalists.
He insisted the welfare of cows is ‘not linked to scale, but is all about management’ when the politicians were asked if they were comfortable with Nocton Dairies’ proposal, given the animal welfare backlash it has provoked.
“I understand this unit is going to have its own dedicated veterinary centre with a vet on the place all the time. That must be good,” said Mr Paice, who is likely be the next Farming Minister should the Conservatives win the General Election.
“I am encouraged that people think it is worth investing in dairy farming in this country at a time when many people are going out of it.
“Clearly there is a public image issue here because the perception is that welfare must be awful and it is factory farming and all the nonsense we have we seen in the tabloids. But it is down to the proponents of it and the industry to explain the upside,” said Mr Paice.
He added that he did not think the venture would damage smaller dairy farmers, given the generally positive outlook for the industry.
Mr Williams also dismissed the animal welfare arguments targeted at the proposed unit. “There isn’t any correlation between the size of the establishment and animal welfare. It’s all to do with the management and how precise you are,” he said.
But Mr Gill, a former Tory MP who is standing for UKIP in Ludlow, said he was ‘personally very much opposed to these huge herds’.
“I don’t think from an animal welfare point of view it’s a very good idea. I very much regret this would be at the expense of small dairy farms,” he said.
The debate covered a range of issues, including the CAP, which Mr Gill would like to the UK to pull out of, supermarket power, agricultural research and the problem of attracting young people into farming.
Farming Minister Jim Fitzpatrick had been expected to take part but pulled out, telling the organisers he was visiting a school instead.