NOT SINCE deregulation of the milk market in the early 1990s emasculated the power of the milk marketing boards – and their ability to bring clarity and fairness to the milk price – will there have been a bigger shake-up than the announcement this week that there will be some precision potentially brought to milk contracts.

For too long farmers have been at the bottom of the pile when it came to meaningful discussion on a fair price for milk. But, just like David toppled Goliath, the pendulum has swung at least a little in favour of the primary producer.

Even the dumbest politician can surely see that with a foodstuff as staple as milk, it must be produced to the proper standards of welfare and management, and for that to happen there must be proper reward for those that do it right. That goes for all sides of the production chain.

It would appear now that there is a new political resolve to right the wrongs of imbalance in the dairy sector across the UK. Allowing milk buyers to assert sole control over what they will or will not pay for their raw product has been clearly shown up as an impediment to fairness.

The Voluntary Code has been an exploitable sham and did little to reduce the unfair pressures placed on dairy farmers.

The mortal danger, now, is that the power of the supermarkets and their dedicated processors can hold back this political tide for change. So, though the acceptance of a need for change has been fully established, the next steps in the process of this change are equally, if not more, important.

That means there must be a properly weighted, but over-arching board appointed by the independent Grocery Chain Adjudicator to bring clarity to contracts. There must be a move away from confusing the market with different demands for how prices are determined for what is, essentially, the same product.

Farmers must also accept, too, that part of this equation is that they must play their part in managing the market risks that hitherto have been passed on to them. That means having an adult conversation about controlling production levels and managing it along with demand.

There remain some dairy farmers – many of them in the 'mega' bracket – that reckon they are big enough and ugly enough to look after themselves. That argument remains sound until it is one of them that is forced out of the industry – as will surely happen once the 'wee guys', then the medium operators, are forced out.

So, it is a time for collective resolve and that will be the only way to make the most of this unique and one-time opportunity for change.