Proposals for new rules allowing milk farmers in England to join forces on talks with buyers have been set out today (11 December).

The UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is consulting on legislation that would give English farmers the opportunity to form "producer organisations" to their milk together to processors and retailers.

Defra said the planned rules would, alongside a new voluntary code of practice in the dairy sector, would give farmers "greater clout" in the market.

"We've already got the industry code of practice, and negotiating as groups rather than individuals will give dairy farmers an even louder voice to get their just rewards from the marketplace," farming minister David Heath said.

Defra has also put aside GBP5m for English farmers to co-operate to "develop new market opportunities".

Heath added: "Our GBP5m dairy fund will also allow producers to develop other means of cooperation and grab business opportunities with both hands."

The plans for producer organisations are part of the UK government's implementation of EU rules set out in 2010 to give dairy producers more power.

The voluntary code of practice was also introduced in reaction to the EU legislation. It was set up in September after a summer of protests and blockaded by farmers over the price of milk they were being paid by some UK processors and retailers.