The industry has until 19 April to offer feedback on the plans, which would permit standard protein levels for the first time. The proposed level is 34 per cent, in line with the international minimum standard set by Codex. Europe's dairy sector has argued for standardisation for some time, claiming the EU's failure to introduce it has put the bloc's dairy firms at a competitive disadvantage. A European Commission working group will discuss a draft directive on standardisation on 21 March, as part of a raft of new measures designed to simplify the EU dairy market. Natural protein content in milk powder ranges from 31 to 37 per cent. Setting a standard at 34 would likely lead to "substantial quantities" of excess proteins on the market, the Commission predicted. But it said strong demand for these in the growing cheese and fresh dairy catergories would prevent a supply glut. The proposed standard is also likely to see intervention prices for skimmed milk powder fall. Current prices are based on a protein level of 35.6 per cent. The Commission said intervention prices would fall 2.8 per cent. That may be a concern to some dairy firms, although buoyant commodity prices both in world and EU markets could help to protect against loss of earnings.