Dairy farmers and processors have claimed a landmark breakthrough in supply chain relations with the publication of the industry’s long-awaited voluntary code of practice.

The code – setting out new guidelines for contracts between farmers and processors – was agreed in principle during the summer under the former farming minister Jim Paice. It has now been published in full and can be accessed through either the Dairy UK or NFU websites.

Dairy UK director general Jim Begg (pictured) said the code would give dairy farmers greater confidence in their contracts with processors and help foster “deeper relationships of trust and mutual understanding”.

Dairy UK expected the publication of the code meant contracts would now not need to be regulated by government, Begg said, adding that “Defra and the devolved administrations will recognise this when they consult on the implementation of the dairy package”.

“At long last there is light at the end of the tunnel,” said NFU dairy board chairman Mansel Raymond. “We will now be pressing ahead with a number of briefings up and down the country, so dairy farmers and processors can see the many beneficial terms of this code translated into beneficial terms in milk supply contracts.”

The code will be reviewed annually to assess its effectiveness and levels of compliance, while Dairy UK’s focus would now move on to implementing dairy producer organisations in the UK, Begg said.

“As with the voluntary code, this is another area where best results will be achieved through discussions across the supply chain,” he claimed. “We would be very happy to work with the farming unions in preparation for and after the government consultation.”