There were wry smiles among traders with long memories when the agrifood folk filed out of Tony Blair's farm crisis summit on Thursday. For the announcement that the farmers and high street chains were, at Nick Brown's suggestion, developing a code of best business practice had a familiar ring about it. After all, the chequered history of trading relationships across UK food and drink records that similar notions have been privately mooted, and then quickly forgotten. The new code, facilitated by IGD, is aimed primarily at farmers and small producers "to ensure fairness and reasonableness in the way business is done." Fair enough. But will it happen? Given the fierce, competitive pressures in grocery at the moment, it's hard not to side with cynics who dismiss the idea as a pipedream. Sure, the recent anti-retailer rhetoric from militant farming groups has overdramatised the story. But the challenge for the code's promoters will be to convince hardline farmers that they're not faced with individual multiple buyers who use the negotiating skills of Attila the Hun to screw suppliers until their eyeballs pop. But is it naive to suggest that, despite certain recent well publicised multiple money-grabbing wheezes, a new mood is emerging? As Nick Brown's food chain unity crusaders tramp the aisles, there appears to be a growing realisation that the various parts of the chain have huge vested interests in each other's success and wellbeing. While the Downing Street endorsement is only the beginning of the process towards the code, perhaps this time around things will be different? Certainly, this is no time for window dressing. The code must be properly policed and it must offer a credible appeals procedure for use in the event of problems. As one industry figure put it on Thursday: "It should be all about bringing the general, every day standard of business up to the best that prevails."Quite so. But it's so much more appropriate when the code is pursued voluntarily by the food chain, rather than being imposed upon it by the Competition Commission. Clive Beddall, Editor {{OPINION }}