Farming minister David Heath has urged dairy processors to adopt the industry’s new voluntary code of practice without delay.

At a Dairy UK board meeting on Wednesday (16 January), Heath said the code –which was agreed at the end of last summer and sets out rules for contracts between farmers and processors, including mandatory notice periods – was a great step forward for the industry but now needed to be put into practice.

“Although I know some good work is being done, a lot of farmers are still waiting for their contracts to be changed to reflect the code and are quite understandably concerned,” Heath said. “For the industry to thrive in the global race all sides of the industry need to work together and turn fine words into real action.”

Heath also warned farmers would need to be assured their contracts would reflect the voluntary code by April because they would otherwise start pushing for compulsory legislation.

Dairy UK director-general Jim Begg said he was pleased Heath shared the view “with all other parties” that the voluntary code was the right way forward for the dairy industry. “Dairy companies firmly support the voluntary code,” he added. “The complicated process of implementing the code is in full swing, and companies are working through the details. It is expected that this will be completed within the agreed timeframe.”