The NFU will push for the voluntary code of practice to be made compulsory through government regulation, if the industry fails to adopt it in full.

Speaking at the Semex UK conference in Glasgow today (14 January), NFU president Peter Kendall said the dairy coalition was committed to ensuring farmers got a fair deal and that the code of practice was implemented.

“If the voluntary code is not followed we will push for regulation; when we had voluntary practice around supermarkets, they never delivered and we had to resort to regulation [groceries adjudicator code],” he said.

“We cannot just jump from where we are to regulation, but if this does not work we will go back to the government because they said if the voluntary code of practice didn’t work, they would regulate.”

He criticised the recent Arla Milk Link milk price cut announcement because it went against the agreement of a month’s notice on any price changes, and said he was disappointed Dairy Crest had failed to adopt the new rules on contract notice periods.

“The voluntary code applies to all of the UK dairy industry – if you do business in the UK, you should follow the UK rules. I want transparency and I want markets that are clear – the voluntary code is our key way of making the UK dairy markets work.”

Commenting on the SOS Dairy campaign last year, he said the coming together of organisations showed that the industry could speak with a unified voice.

To prevent future unrest and blockades, he said the industry needed to ensure that the right people were in place to represent farmers in the supply chain.

“We need to make sure that we have got good democratic systems in place so we have a progressive long-term dialogue with farmers so they don’t have to stand outside processing plants to make their feelings felt,” he said.

Mr Kendall added the dairy coalition would work to ensure any market price increases were fed back to producers and reflected in the UK base price.

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