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Warning on dairy code by Minister

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 14, 2012

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London Editor

Compulsory contracts guaranteeing farmers a fair deal for milk could be introduced to prevent future dairy blockades, the Government has warned.

Speaking in the House of Commons for the first time as Farming Minister, David Heath said he would "seriously consider" legislating if a voluntary agreement between farmers and processors failed.

Protests broke out over the summer as farmers were losing money on each litre of milk they sold after processors reduced the amount they paid.

A voluntary code of practice announced this month was hailed as a watershed in dairy relations, giving producers fair notice of changes to prices and allowing farmers to break contracts more easily.

But Mr Heath, appointed last week, indicated that he is willing to crack down further if the historic agreement fails.

Mr Heath, Liberal Democrat MP for Somerton and Frome, said: "We can't have warring in an industry that is mutually dependent.

"I will seriously consider making contracts compulsory if the code fails to deliver the necessary changes."

Devon Conservative MP, Neil Parish, instrumental in securing yesterday's three-hour debate on the sector's future, said: "If you have that threat to legislate behind the code then the code will work."

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