MILK buyers are urged to implement the new industry code of practice voluntarily or face regulations forcing them to do so.
The Dairy Coalition, made up of industry bodies including farming unions and dairy groups, also demanded further price rises for hard-pressed farmers.
And it called for the names of those milk buyers which did not comply with the Dairy Industry Code of Best Practice on Contractual Relationships to be made public.
NFU dairy board chairman Mansel Raymond said: “If Co-ops, smaller processors or any milk buyer for that matter thinks the code doesn’t apply to them, they are wrong.
“It is the responsibility of every milk buyer to ensure the voluntary approach to improving milk contracts succeeds. The alternative is legislation and the coalition will not rest until we see better more balanced contracts for dairy farmers.”
NFU President Peter Kendall said: “I am laying the challenge down to [food and agriculture minister] David Heath to put his full support and force behind the full implementation of the code.
“As a coalition we are committed to the success of the code and trust Defra to be equally committed. That said, we welcome David Heath’s recent challenge to processors, when he told the Dairy UK board that if contracts do not improve via the voluntary route, Defra will look to legislate.”
Milk processors and Dairy UK have said it will be the end of March before contracts are improved.
Gary Mitchell, NFUS milk committee chairman, said: “While we’d like to see improvements before this date, we certainly will not sanction delays beyond this.
“We will challenge retailers and food businesses to only buy milk via compliant contracts or from processors who comply with the code and non-compliance will be made very public.”
Farmers for Action chairman David Handley said: “Despite all of our efforts, farm gate milk prices for deliveries in January are typically only 1ppl to 2ppl higher than in April 2012. Since then, costs of production have risen by 3ppl to 4ppl. Farmers need to see improving dairy market conditions translated into farm gate milk price rises.”
Members of the dairy coalition met at the NFU’s headquarters last week to discuss the way forward.