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David Blackmore denied farm permit

In a move described by chef Neil Perry as "like losing Apple in the agriculture world", prize-winning wagyu producer David Blackmore may have to abandon his Victorian farm after the local council denied him a vital permit.

Blackmore's 1350-strong herd of prized full-blood wagyu cattle may be looking for a new home after concerns from neighbours about machinery, noise, dust and birds on the 150-hectare farm. In what has been construed by the Victorian Farmers' Federation as a right-to-farm issue, Murrindindi Shire Council last month ignored the advice of its own planning department in rejecting Blackmore a permit for what it has contentiously described as "intensive animal husbandry".

It's a description Blackmore says is out of step with the kind of innovative farming practices that saw him take his animals out of a feedlot four years ago to be intensively fattened while grazing on natural pasture. "No statutory body has raised an objection to what we do here," he says." The council even rejected the advice of its own expert it brought in. This is going to be an Australia-wide issue as farming becomes more intensive."

The shire's acting chief executive officer Michael Chesworth in a press release acknowledged the level of interest in the Blackmore case, but said the issue was about finding a balance between "growth and economic development (and) the need to manage impacts of intensive farming practices on the amenity of the surrounding area".

Blackmore, who has been rearing his prized herd outside Alexandra, in Victoria's Central Highlands, since 2004, says he is unsure whether he and his wife will appeal to VCAT ahead of the late-August deadline. "It's too early to make the call to fight or leave, but I'm 65 years old and we've put our lifetime's work into this. We're running a bit scared."

A petition started by Perry at change.org urging the state and federal governments to intervene had gathered 1890 supporters at the time of publication. "This is a world-class, best-practice farm… and I mean world-class in every way," says Perry. "There are no other wagyu farms doing it as sustainably or humanely as David."

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