Dairy UK called Brexit the most defining issue the industry has faced for generations, with the White Paper 2017 identifying what Brexit needs to deliver to safeguard the future interests of an industry that employs more than 70,000 people, and has an overall turnover of nearly £28bn ($36.8bn).
On Brexit, Dairy UK said continued trading agreements with the EU without tariff and non-tariff barriers will mean massive export and growth opportunities, whereas failure will damage exports and reduce demand for dairy.
It said the worst Brexit scenario is a return to WTO rules.
Dairy UK added access to both skilled and unskilled labour is vital, and failure to maintain access will increase operating costs, with a major impact on margins.
The report also noted UK dairy farmers should not be disadvantaged compared with their European counterparts.
The Northern Ireland border issue should be resolved by creating a frictionless and seamless border that could be a blueprint for future arrangements with the EU, it added.
The white paper notes demand for dairy is growing globally, and milk prices are on an upward trend.
It urges the UK Government to work collaboratively with the industry to help exploit export opportunities around the world.
On consumer confidence, Dairy UK says UK consumers continue to support dairy. Its figures say 87% of consumers drink cow's milk, 94% of adults buy cheese and 78% purchase yogurt or fromage frais.
On the ‘sugar tax’, or the Sugar Drinks Industry Levy, the report stated nutrient-rich dairy products should be exempt when it is implemented next year.
Dr Judith Bryans, chief executive of Dairy UK, said the White Paper details the performance of dairy in a wide range of areas including nutrition, consumer trends, farming and milk processing, animal health and welfare and the environment.
"It shows we have a track record we can be proud of but, like any major industry, we have to maintain our deep commitment to continually improve and innovate,” Bryans said.
“Ultimately, we are judged by consumers and we are very grateful for the outstanding and enduring support they give to dairy."