Newly elected Federated Farmers dairy chairman Andrew Hoggard said focusing on the environment was one of his two main priorities.
The other was to deal with the issue of labour standards.
A Feilding dairy farmer, Hoggard said it frustrated him that farmers were always trying to play catch up when it came to dealing with environmental issues.
He acknowledged there was a "real issue" of water quality being affected by dairying.
"Cows urinate and that's got a lot of nitrogen in it, but a lot of people perceive there's a pipe coming out of a cow shed and into a river. There are a few ratbags but things are in place for farmers to do the right thing. I don't defend those who don't," he said.
It was not sensible to allow intensification in catchments which were under pressure, he said.
Under outgoing President Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers had made a lot of progress
"When I first became a dairy chairperson in Manawatu- Rangitikei, non-compliance was running at 16 per cent but today it's three per cent.
"Behind the headlines, Federated Farmers worked closely with Horizons Regional Council and despite what may have blown up in the media from time to time, we have a good relationship now," Hoggard said.
He also wanted to deal with the issue of labour standards in dairy farming. Dairying had changed, he said, so there were a lot of people working in the industry who would not have the same opportunities as he had to buy their own farm.
"When I was in my 20s I didn't care that I worked truckloads of hours. I knew where I wanted to end up. Now there are a lot of people who will do what I did as a job for all their working lives.
"It's not fair to expect the same sort of commitment and sacrifice from them because they are not going to get the same sort of payoff in later years that I have had," he said.
Federated Farmers had developed an industry standards policy that everybody should be paid a minimum wage for every hour worked.
"We've also got a bloody good environmental story to tell and I am so keen to get it told," Mr Hoggard concluded.
Hoggard, 39, farms 560 cows near Feilding across 300 hectares and has two children aged five and three with his wife Audra.
The Federation's dairy council also elected Waikato's Chris Lewis to be one of two vice-chairmen, joining Kevin Robinson who was reconfirmed in that role.
- The Timaru Herald